Could salmon and sunshine prevent brain damage?

Brain-damageWant to keep your brain in tip-top condition? Then you may want to put mackerel and mushrooms on your menu or start eating your salmon in the sun!

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

In addition to being essential for maintaining bone health, new evidence shows that vitamin D serves important roles in other organs and tissue, including the brain.

The study, published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine showed that middle-aged rats that were fed a diet low in vitamin D for several months developed free radical damage to the brain. Additionally, many different brain proteins were damaged.  The vitamin D deficient 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,” said lead author on the paper Allan Butterfield, professor 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. “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences.”

vitamin D bookPreviously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s also been linked to the development of certain cancers and heart disease.

The elderly are particularly prone to have low vitamin D levels.

Butterfield recommends that people consult their physicians to have their vitamin D levels determined. If they turn out to be low it’s important to normalize them either through diet or sunlight exposure to help protect the brain.

low that they eat foods rich in vitamin D, take vitamin D supplements, and/or get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure each day to ensure that vitamin D levels are normalized and remain so to help protect the brain.
Surprisingly few foods contain vitamin D.  That’s because your body is built to get it from sunlight skin rather than from food. However, if your body has enough, it doesn’t matter whether you got it through your skin or through your stomach.

SalmonThere are three vitamin D super foods:

  • Salmon (especially wild-caught)
  • Mackerel (especially wild-caught)
  • Mushrooms (exposed to ultraviolet light)

Other food sources of vitamin D include:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Tuna canned in water
  • Sardines canned in oil
  • Milk or yogurt – fortified with vitamin D
  • Beef or calf liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

sunlightIf all that sounds a little too fishy for you, then you can boost your vitamin D from 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day.

I’m off to get mine now!

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The Great Vitamin D Debate

Over the past decade there has been a lot of conflicting advice about the benefits of vitamin D and calcium.

Like many of our readers, this confusion has left us pondering: How much milk should we be drinking?  Are supplements really necessary? Can we get all the vitamin D we need from the sun?

We were therefore very interested to read the results of The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recently released review on dietary reference intakes for the vitamin D and calcium. Their latest recommendations were based on a review of more than 1,000 studies and reports as well as testimony from scientists and stakeholders. Interestingly, the IOM looked at a range of health outcomes, far beyond bone health.  These included, but were not limited to, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, falls, immune response, neuropsychological functioning, physi­cal performance, preeclampsia, and reproductive outcomes.

Although they acknowledged that both are important for health, overall, the committee concluded that the majority of Americans are receiving adequate amounts of both calcium and vita­min D.

Perhaps more interestingly, they warned that more than 2,000 mg of calcium per day increases the risk of kidney stones. Likewise, very high levels of vitamin D (above 10,000 IU per day) are known to cause kidney and tissue damage.

So at the risk of upsetting the vitamin industry, we’ve decided to save our money and our kidneys. From now on we’ll be getting our daily requirements of calcium and vitamin D by drinking milkshakes in the sun!

Milk can cut kids’ MS risk by 56%

Word on Health has just learned of a study that suggests drinking milk during pregnancy may help reduce a baby’s chances of developing multiple sclerosis (MS).  Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health will present preliminary results at the upcoming meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

The data we’ve seen so far look very interesting. More than 35,000 mothers were surveyed over a 16 year period. The risk of their daughters developing MS was 56% lower for mothers who drank four or more glasses of milk a day, compared to those that drank 3 or less glasses / month.

The results add further credibility to earlier studies that link MS with vitamin D deficiency.

While these findings are not going to change the lives of the 350,000 Americans currently estimated to have MS, they may, in the future, be able to prevent some of the 200 new cases diagnosed each week.

More importantly this study may be able to reduce the 2.5 billion dollars the US spends each year on MS care.

Got Milk?  Word on Health is stocking up!