Nutrient in the News: Vitamin D Protects the Brain, too!It's no secret that vitamin D, the "Sunshine Vitamin," is essential for maintaining healthy bones and a strong immune system. There increasing attention on the importance of vitamin D for other tissues and organs, including the brain. A recent study published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine warns that a deficiency of Vitamin D may seriously jeopardize the brain and contribute to a decline in cognitive function as we age.
In this study, male rats fed a diet low in Vitamin D exhibited evidence of degenerative changes in the brain. The Vitamin D-deficient rats had elevated levels of certain proteins that accumulate when there is free radical damage to brain tissue. According to the journal report, "These results suggest that dietary Vitamin D deficiency contributes to significant nitrosative stress in brain and may promote cognitive decline in middle-aged and elderly adults."
"Given that Vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how during aging from middle-age to old-age Vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain," says Allan Butterfield, director of the Center of Membrane Sciences, faculty of Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and scientist on the research team. "Adequate Vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in the brain and subsequent deleterious consequences," he warns.
Butterfield joins the growing chorus of health experts who stress the wisdom of taking measures to ensure you have sufficient Vitamin D, including the prudent use of Vitamin D supplements.
Reference: Keeney JT, Förster S, Sultana R, et al. Dietary Vitamin D deficiency in rats from middle to old age leads to elevated tyrosine nitration and proteomics changes in levels of key proteins in brain: implications for low Vitamin D-dependent age-related cognitive decline.
Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Dec;65:324-34. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2013.07.019. Epub 2013 Jul 18.