Vitamin D, The Key to a Healthy Brain
Sufficient vitamin D intake may play a critical role in maintaining brain function later in life, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester and published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
“This is further evidence from observational studies that vitamin D is likely to be beneficial to reduce many age-related diseases,” said Tim Spector of King’s College London, who was not involved in the study. “Taken together with similar data that shows its importance in reducing arthritis, osteoporotic fractures, as well as heart disease and some cancers, this underscores the importance of vitamin D for humans and why evolution gave us a liking for the sun.”
Researchers measured blood levels of vitamin D in more than 3,000 European men between the ages of 40 and 79 then had the men undergo various tests of mental function, including memory and information processing. They found that the men with the highest blood levels did best on the test, while those with the lowest levels performed worst.
Another study earlier this year also found that higher levels of vitamin D appeared to protect against age-related cognitive decline.
The researchers were not able to determine which biological pathways vitamin D might act through to protect the aging brain, but they hypothesized that it might increase levels of protective antioxidants, increase key hormone levels, or suppress a hyperactive immune system that can lead to brain degeneration.
The researchers warned that vitamin D deficiency is widespread, especially among the elderly, who have decreased absorption from both food and sun sources.
Vitamin D is synthesized by the body when the sun is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The average light-skinned person can get enough vitamin D from roughly 15 minutes of sun on their face and hands per day, significantly less than the time it takes to burn. Darker skinned people, the elderly, and those living far from the equator (particularly during the winter) may need more sun to synthesize the same amount.