Vitamin D, a fat soluble nutrient found in oily fish, eggs, vitamin fortified foods like milk, cereals and drinks, or naturally received from sunlight might act as an effective mental health therapy aid by helping hold off the mental decline that can affect people as they age – this according to the latest research efforts of a team of British and U.S. scientists.
This vital nutrient is also known to be important in keeping bones healthy and helping strengthen the immune system.
It’s even been linked to the prevention of cancers like colon, breast and ovarian.
Yet many of us don’t get enough.
The recommended intake of vitamin D is 600 IU a day, though a more accurate recommendation is that both children and adults get at least 1000 IU per day.
Eating a diet with the right amount of vitamin D isn’t the easiest thing to do. This is why supplements have become so popular.
What’s more, as we age, our skin is less able to absorb vitamin D from the sun, concussion clinic Toronto so older people depend more on food sources (or supplements) for this key nutrient.
Vitamin D deficiency affects an estimated 50% of adults and children in the United States, so it’s a widespread problem.
Beyond our difficulty getting enough vitamin D through diet, we all spend our time in the sun lathered in sunscreen. Wearing sunscreens of SPF 15 is known to block almost all vitamin D synthesis by the skin.
Not only older adults, but anyone who is obese or overweight are also naturally less able to make vitamin D from sunlight.
Earlier studies have suggested that vitamins may have a beneficial effect on our cognitive function, and we also know that if you have impaired cognitive function you’re more likely to develop dementia.
Diet is also considered an important influence on dementia risk – a balanced diet, regular exercise and lots of social interaction are believed to be key to keeping this debilitating, life altering condition at bay.
The team of researchers from the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan, looked at 2,000 people over age 65.
They measured vitamin D levels via blood work as well as asking volunteers to complete a test designed to assess mental decline. The subjects used in the work had taken part in the Health Survey for England, completed in 2000.
Just over 200 of the study participants were found to have significant cognitive impairment, the team saw that those with lower vitamin D levels were at least two times more likely to have impaired thinking. As levels of vitamin D went down, levels of cognitive impairment went up.
The paper detailing the study appears in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of Geriatric Psychology and Neurology. Of course more work is needed to solidify the relationship between vitamin D and keeping the aging brain healthy and vibrant. Still this is a good start.
Dr. Iain Lang of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter points out, “Given the growing burden of care associated with dementia, even if it reduced 10 per cent of dementia, it would make a massive difference. The amount that’s contained in a regular multi-vitamin tablet is fine.”
So if you’re in your middle years and concerned about your dementia risk, being sure you get enough vitamin D from your diet, or exposure to natural sunlight, can help as an effective mental health therapy aid keeping you sharp for years to come.