by Lisa Garber
Go ahead: pack up a healthy lunch and step into the sun. Your brain will thank you for it. A study conducted by the University of Manchester proposes that adequate levels of vitamin D—which abounds in direct sunlight—helps maintain mind health and cognitive function. Researchers examined over 3,000 European men between the ages 40 and 79 and found that those with high levels of the vitamin outperformed with low levels in memory and information processing trials.
Dr. Iain Lange, who conducted similar research, warns that poor diet in general—not necessarily vitamin D deficiency—could be to blame for poor mental performance. Even so, he admits that the evidence for vitamin D is rising and that it may safeguard cells or signaling pathways in the brain.
Vitamin D Deficiency Effects Mind Health and More
Vitamin D deficiency is linked with rickets in children, weak bones in the elderly, poor mind health, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. A 2010 blog post in the Scientific American even adds to the ever extending list Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder associated with cognitive decline.
Many studies in recent years (using genetically modified mice, although who knows how they’ve been “modified”) report that the animals experienced premature aging—retarded growth, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, immunological deficiency, skin and organ atrophy, and short lifespan—due to low levels of vitamin D.
Despite the mounting evidence, researchers are quiet about why vitamin D is linked with mind health and improved cognitive health – it’s because they simply don’t know.
Some say that vitamin D may trigger a boost in protective hormonal activity in the brain, although only animal and no human studies can back up this theory. Others claim that vitamin D reins in a hyperactive immune system. Still others cite the vitamin’s ability to boost antioxidant levels and detoxify the brain.
While still researching why vitamin D is such a boon, Prof. Tim Spector of King’s College London says, “This underscores the importance of vitamin D for humans and why evolution gave us a liking for the sun.”
And what better way to celebrate our evolutionary history than to step out into the great outdoors?
If you need more reasons to take that beach trip this year, check out our previous article on the amazing benefits of vitamin D. And for those days when you’re stuck inside (remember, vitamin D can’t penetrate window glass!), read up on other ways to get your fill of this essential nutrient.