05 March 2020
There are indications that ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure has beneficial effects on well-being through mechanisms other than vitamin D synthesis alone. We conducted a randomized controlled multicenter trial to compare the effects of UVB light and vitamin D supplementation (VD) in terms of the well-being of nursing home residents with dementia. Participants were randomly assigned to the intervention group (UVB group, n = 41; half-body UVB irradiation, twice weekly over 6 months, with 1 standard erythema dose (SED)) or to the control group (VD group, n = 37; 5600 International units (IU) cholecalciferol supplementation once a week). The main outcome was well-being, measured by the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) and the Cornell scale for depression in dementia at 0, 3, and 6 months. Secondary outcomes were QUALIDEM quality of life domains and biochemical parameters of bone homeostasis. Intention-to-treat analysis with linear mixed modeling showed no significant between-group differences on agitation ( p = 0.431) or depressive symptoms ( p = 0.982). At six months, the UVB group showed less restless/tense behavior compared to the VD group (mean difference of the mean change scores 2.2, 95% CI 0.8 to 3.6; p = 0.003 for group x time interaction) and lower serum 25(OH)D3 concentration (estimated mean difference - 21.9, 95% CI −32.6 to −11.2; p = 0.003 for group difference). The exposure of nursing home residents with dementia to UVB light showed no positive benefits in terms of wellbeing. UVB treatment may have a positive effect on the restless/tense behavior characteristic of advanced dementia but more research is needed to confirm this finding.