We know vitamin D plays important roles in immune function, bone health, and even the fight against cancer. Well, a recent study from the University of Kentucky indicates that vitamin d plays an important role in brain health too, and deficiency could cause brain and other organ damage.
The study was published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, and found that rats who were deficient in vitamin D developed free radical brain damage. In addition, they performed worse in cognition tests than rats not deficient in vitamin D. This is particularly significant because vitamin D deficiency is known to be a common and widespread problem.
The stud abstract concludes:
“…Together, these results suggest that dietary VitD deficiency contributes to significant nitrosative stress in brain and may promote cognitive decline in middle-aged and elderly adults.”
Low levels of vitamin D have previously been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, indicating this isn’t the first research to draw a connection between the “sunshine vitamin” and brain health.
“Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how, during aging from middle-age to old-age, low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain,” explained Professor Allan Butterfield. “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences.”
It’s been suggested that vitamin D deficiency is a problem in the modern world because we simply aren’t outside enough. Also, the campaign to get everyone under a constant coating of sunscreen blocks those rays that deliver the vitamin, making it even more difficult for people to get as much as they need.
The solution: get some sunlight. Ten to fifteen minutes a day is a good start. No need to burn yourself outside in an effort to get enough vitamin D, but you need sunshine for optimal health.
Research on vitamin D supplements is mixed. Some indicate they are useful in combating deficiencies, but that those with too much vitamin D could actually contribute to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart disease.
“Healthy people have been popping these pills, but they should not continue taking vitamin D supplements unchecked. At a certain point, more vitamin D no longer confers any survival benefit, so taking these expensive supplements is at best a waste of money,” said Dr. Muhammad Amer in a previous study.
The best source of this vitamin remains the sun and dietary sources. Go for an afternoon walk or read a book on your patio. Do it for your health.