21. 03. 2014

Low Vitamin D Causes Brain Damage

A new study led by University of Kentucky researchers suggests that a diet low in vitamin D causes damage to the brain.

Published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine, the study showed that middle-aged rats that were fed a diet low in vitamin D for several months developed free radical damage to the brain, and many different brain proteins were damaged as identified by redox proteomics. These rats also showed a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of 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,” says lead author Allan Butterfield, PhD, a professor in the chemistry department, the director of the Center of Membrane Sciences, a faculty member of the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, 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 the brain and [other] subsequent deleterious consequences.”

Previously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and linked to the development of certain cancers and heart disease. In both the developed world and areas of economic hardship where food intake isn’t always the most nutritious, vitamin D levels in humans often are low, particularly in elder populations. Butterfield recommends that people consult their physicians to have their vitamin D levels determined and, if low, that they eat foods rich in vitamin D, take vitamin D supplements, and/or get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure each day to ensure that vitamin D levels are normalized and remain so as to help protect the brain.