Vitamin D, traditionally known for maintaining bone health, may play an important role in preventing brain and vital organ damage, scientists say.
Vitamin D has been dubbed the "sunshine vitamin"
A report from researchers in Kentucky found that when middle-aged rats were restricted to a diet low in vitamin D for several months, they began to develop free radical damage to the brain. The study was published in the Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
The mice also performed worse in cognitive functioning tests for both learning and memory if they were deprived of vitamin D in their diet.
Scientists also found that several proteins located in the brain had significantly higher levels which can contribute to stress in the brain, leading to a cognitive decline.
Experts believe everyone should aim to expose themselves to sunshine every day for at least 10-15 minutes to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D.
Professor Allan Butterfield, lead author if the study, said: “Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how, during aging from middle-age to old-age, low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain.
“Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences.”
Vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and is not prevalent in many food sources and the study notes that individual food intake is not always the most efficient or nutritious way to boost your vitamin D levels. Foods that contain vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and fortified milk.
Previous studies have indicated that vitamin D deficiency may cause the onset of Alzheimer’s and has been linked to both cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Some health insurance providers can offer reward schemes for healthy eating and advice on what to eat to make sure you get your recommended daily allowance of all vitamins.
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