Fend Off A Muddled Mind
Things are looking even brighter for the sunshine vitamin. Maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D could protect against brain damage and Alzheimer’s disease as you age, according to University of Kentucky researchers. Using rats, scientists simulated human equivalents of low, normal, and high levels of the vitamin for several months. The low threshold was 10 times below what’s considered healthy—a level you could reach if you’re not getting enough D from your diet or sunlight, or if your levels are depleting due to aging, explains study author D. Allan Butterfield, Ph.D. The study found that the vitamin-deprived group experienced an increase in amyloid-beta deposits and free radical damage in the brain, which are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. The low-D rats also showed impaired learning and memory in tests. Previous lab studies suggest that sopping up enough vitamin D reduces neural inflammation associated with free radical damage and also protects the health of signaling pathways that prevent amyloid-beta deposits from taking root in your noggin, Butterfield says. While the results haven’t yet been shown in humans—to this same degree, at least—researchers believe that the effect would be similar in people. Make sure to eat plenty of vitamin-D rich foods like fatty fish, fortified milk, and yogurt this winter, and spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outdoors in the sun each day. Start today, too: “A proactive approach when you’re younger may be necessary to lower your risk of long-term consequences of vitamin D deficiency,” Butterfield says. Aim for 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. Combine a multivitamin—most contain 400 IU—with an 8-ounce serving of OJ and a bowl of cereal and milk. Both contain 100 IU when fortified. Or consider a 3.5-ounce piece of salmon with dinner—it packs 360 IU.