If you were told to take your vitamins during childhood, you were given good advice not only for your body but also for your brain. A study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging notes that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased brain aging.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that plays a significant role in metabolic processes. It’s best known for its involvement in the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body, but it does much more than that. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to impaired memory, problems with executive function, and general cognitive impairment.
There has been mixed research on whether or not vitamin D deficiency is linked to dementia risk. Regardless, research seems to agree that vitamin D has notable effects on brain structure and function in humans. This study attempted to further explore the relationship of vitamin D to the brain, including gray matter volume and the observed imaging patterns of aging.
For their study, Jan Terock from the University Medical Center Greifswald and his colleagues used data from 1,865 participants aged 20 to 82 from the Study of Health in Pomerania-Trend Baseline, a German population-based cohort study. Participants underwent MRI for all imaging focused on gray matter, white matter, intracranial volume, brain age, total brain volume, and left and right hippocampal volume. Brain age was calculated using chronological age and brain volume. Vitamin D levels were measured through blood samples.
The results showed that vitamin D deficiency in this sample had a significant impact on brain aging. Elevated vitamin D levels have been linked to brain matter volume, particularly gray matter volume and total brain volume. These relationships are only significant among older adults, although nonsignificant similar patterns emerge among younger participants.
These results were also only significant for male participants, prompting further research into gender differences in the underlying mechanisms related to vitamin D and brain function. Regardless, the results suggest that vitamin D may have a protective effect on the brain.
“Taken together, our results support previous findings suggesting that people with vitamin D deficiency have advanced brain aging,” the researchers said. “Furthermore, our results show that positive associations were found between vitamin D levels and gray matter volume, and specifically hippocampal volume, that the beneficial effects of vitamin D on neuroprotection and proliferation lead to MRI-detectable structural changes.” of the brain.”
This study took important steps towards better understanding the relationship between vitamin D and brain aging and function. Nevertheless, there are restrictions to be observed. One such limitation is that this study is cross-sectional and does not allow for causal conclusions. Future research should include a longitudinal design. In addition, vitamin D was only measured at one point and may not be representative of normal vitamin D levels.
“In summary, our results from a large sample of the general population, including adults of all ages, support the concept that vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining the neuronal integrity of the brain,” the researchers wrote. “However, because these are cross-sectional data, it cannot be decided whether vitamin D should be considered a factor in brain age development or a marker of brain health.”
The study “Vitamin D Deficiency is Associated with Accelerated Brain Aging in the General Population” was authored by Jan Terock, Sarah Bonk, Stefan Frenzel, Katharina Wittfeld, Linda Garvert, Norbert Hosten, Matthias Nauck, Henry Völzke, Sandra Van der Auwera, and Hans Jörgen Grabe.