That’s because a new study led by University of Kentucky researchers suggests that a diet low in vitamin D causes damage to the brain.
In addition to being essential for maintaining bone health, new evidence shows that vitamin D serves important roles in other organs and tissue, including the brain.
The study, published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed that middle-aged rats that were fed a diet low in vitamin D for several months developed free radical damage to the brain. Additionally, many different brain proteins were damaged. The vitamin D deficient rats also showed a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory.
“Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how during aging from middle-age to old-age how low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain,” said lead author on the paper Allan Butterfield, professor of Chemistry, director of the Center of Membrane Sciences, faculty of Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, and director of the Free Radical Biology in Cancer Core of the Markey Cancer Center. “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences.”
Previously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s also been linked to the development of certain cancers and heart disease.
The elderly are particularly prone to have low vitamin D levels.
Butterfield recommends that people consult their physicians to have their vitamin D levels determined. If they turn out to be low it’s important to normalize them either through diet or sunlight exposure to help protect the brain.
low that they eat foods rich in vitamin D, take vitamin D supplements, and/or get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day to ensure that vitamin D levels are normalized and remain so to help protect the brain.
Surprisingly few foods contain vitamin D. That’s because your body is built to get it from sunlight skin rather than from food. However, if your body has enough, it doesn’t matter whether you got it through your skin or through your stomach.
- Salmon (especially wild-caught)
- Mackerel (especially wild-caught)
- Mushrooms (exposed to ultraviolet light)
Other food sources of vitamin D include:
- Cod liver oil
- Tuna canned in water
- Sardines canned in oil
- Milk or yogurt – fortified with vitamin D
- Beef or calf liver
- Egg yolks
I’m off to get mine now!