Typically Vitamin D is associated with bone health. And indeed, vitamin D is essential for strong bones. A lack of vitamin D will cause bones to soften, and under the weight of the body to bend or bough. It can also lead to weakened bones that fracture easily. But recent research has shown that there are receptors for Vitamin D throughout the central nervous system and hippocampus (that part of the brain that we create and hold memories in). So it seems there’s much more to this sunshine vitamin than we previously thought.
What is Vitamin D?
Rather than truly being a vitamin, D is classified as a hormone. (And what do hormones do in our bodies? They orchestrate all the functions that keep us alive, and can cause things to go awry if out of whack.) Aside from aiding intestinal absorption of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc, it is now thought that this fat-soluble hormone is anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective. Vitamin D is involved in brain development and function, and may be neuro-protective via antioxidant pathways, calcium regulation, and detoxification.
Can I take too much Vitamin D?
There are risks associated with too much D in our bodies, the main one being hypercalcemia. As the names suggests, this is too much calcium in your blood. This condition would make you feel pretty sick, and would cause you to feel extra thirsty and loose appetite. It’s pretty rare, and it usually develops only from an extremely high daily dosage of vitamin D (10,000 – 40,000 IU) being consumed for longer than a 3 month period.
How can I get Vitamin D?
Back in the good ol’ days of hunting and gathering, when we were running around buck naked (or in very little), we were exposed to a lot of sunshine during the longer days of summer. We’d naturally produce up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D each day, some of which our body would store in our fat to be used throughout the winter.
Our bodies still employ the same exact process today, but we’ve largely blocked the mechanism that allows this to happen by staying covered either with clothing or sunscreen. A lot more of us are also indoors nowadays, working away on computers. So the system that naturally evolved in our bodies to keep our D levels optimum are no longer regularly utilized by most of us.
Supplementation can get you back on track though. If you think you might be lacking in D, talk to your physician about it to figure out a good dose (if one is needed). The USDA recommendation is 400 IU daily, but several studies have pointed towards 800 IU to 2,000 IU being more appropriate for a healthy individual. The good news about vitamin D supplements is that they’re affordable, even really good brands:
Will Vitamin D magically protect your brain from disease? As far as we know, not on its own. But integrated into a healthy whole foods diet, it will hopefully provide neuro-protection for a bright brain future!