Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin has long been touted for strengthening our bones and helping our immune system. Research has linked vitamin D deficiency to chronic health conditions and early death. A team of researchers from Tufts University discovered that the vitamin can also affect our brain’s cognitive function.
In a new study published in Alzheimers & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimers Association, researchers analyzed vitamin D in brain tissue. They found that higher levels of the vitamin were associated with better cognitive function, a stronger memory and a slower progression of cognitive decline. This study marks the first time that vitamin D levels have been studied in brain tissue according to the author’s timely study as experts estimate that those living with dementia will exceed to 150 million worldwide by 2050.
This research reinforces the importance of studying how food and nutrients create resilience to protect the aging brain against diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias, said Sarah Booth, a study author and director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in a press release.
Using brain tissue from 290 participants who were part of an ongoing Alzheimer’s study called the Rush Memory and Aging Project, researchers examined vitamin D levels in four brain regions. High levels of vitamin D in the brain were associated with a 25% to 33% lower likelihood of dementia and mild cognitive impairment when measured at the last doctor’s visit before the participant died.
The story kind of resets by looking at brain levels, and not just blood levels, Kyla Shea, study author and scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Tufts University, says. Fortune. Establishing that vitamin D is present in the human brain is an important step in understanding the biology, while not sufficient to draw a causal relationship or recommend specific amounts of vitamin D for adults. In the future, rigorously designed studies could begin to outline potential dietary guidelines with specific nutrients to address brain health, Shea said.
However, this study did not find any associations between vitamin D levels in the brain and the presence of lewy bodies or amyloid beta build up that indicates the development of lewy body dementia and Alzheimers respectively. To describe the mechanisms behind how vitamin D works in the brain, Shea plans to further study the structure of the brain.
Vitamin D status also differed by race, and the study authors note that their group was predominantly white. Given this key limitation, Shea hopes to see if these studies’ generalizations can be expanded to a more diverse population in future work using the Minority Aging Research Study.
We still have a lot to do to understand what it really is [vitamin D] does, Shea said.
Vitamin D can be consumed through food, including various fish such as salmon, trout, and tuna, as well as through orange juice or vitamin D-fortified milk. The body also produces vitamin D naturally. by exposure to the sun. Some people may benefit from supplements to boost their vitamin levels.
The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU a day for those between ages 1 and 70, and 800 IU for those over 70. (For reference: a three-ounce serving of trout has 645 IU and one cup of fortified 2% milk has 120 IU.)
Getting too much vitamin D also poses a risk, particularly when using supplements: it can cause an excess build-up of calcium, called hypercalcemia, increase the risk for kidney damage, and can cause falls and other injuries, according to Harvard Health. Talk to your doctor to determine how much vitamin D you need and whether to consider taking supplements.
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Image Source : fortune.com