Vitamin D Can Help Stave Off Cognitive Decline
December 3, 2013

Insufficient Vitamin D Could Lead To Potential Brain Damage

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A diet that is too low in vitamin D could potentially cause damage to the brain, according to new research appearing in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

Vitamin D supplements have gained popularity in recent months due to the role they play in maintaining bone health, but more recent research has also shown that it is also essential for other organs and tissues, including the brain, researchers from the University of Kentucky explained in a statement Monday.

The newly-published paper demonstrated that middle-aged rats that consumed a diet low in vitamin D over the course of several months developed free radical damage to the brain. In addition, several different brain proteins were identified by redox proteomics as being damaged, and the rats demonstrated a significant amount of cognitive decline in a series of memory and learning tests, the researchers noted.

“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,” explained lead author Allan Butterfield, a chemistry professor and the 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 university added. “In both the developed world and in areas of economic hardship where food intake is not always the most nutritious, vitamin D levels in humans are often low, particularly in the elderly population.”

According to Butterfield, men and women should visit their physicians in order to have their vitamin D levels checked. Should those levels turn out to be low, they should begin eating foods that are rich in vitamin D, start taking supplements, and/or get a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine each day in order to ensure that their vitamin D levels become and remain normalized in order to help safeguard against potential brain damage.

In September, a systematic review of 200 population-based vitamin D studies from 44 different countries revealed that over 37 percent of all people worldwide had insufficient levels of the essential nutrient, which has been linked to a decreased risk of osteoporosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. That study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.