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Study Finds Low Vitamin D Levels Tied to Brain Damage

Update Date: Dec 02, 2013 11:17 AM EST

Vitamin D, which is most often acquired via exposure to the sun, is an essential vitamin that promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphate in the intestines. Vitamin D helps with bone growth and prevents the bones from becoming thin and brittle. In a new study, researchers found that a lack of vitamin D could also contribute to brain damage.

For this study, researchers from the University of Kentucky used mouse models to examine the effects of eating a diet low in vitamin D. The rats were all middle-aged and were given a diet low in vitamin D for a few months. The researchers then analyzed the brains of the rats and found that they had free radical damage. The team found that vitamin D-deficient rats had lower scores on tests that measured cognitive performance, 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 Allan Butterfield, professor in the UK Department 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.

He added, according to Medical Xpress, "Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences."

The researchers of this study stated that taking vitamin D supplements, especially for seniors, could greatly affect cognitive functions. Butterfield stressed the importance for people to consult their physicians and get their vitamin D levels tested. If the tests reveal low levels, people should eat more foods with Vitamin D, get more exposure to sunlight or take supplements. Previous studies have tied vitamin D to Alzheimer's disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

The study, "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," was published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

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