And it’s not easy to include vitamin D-containing foods in even the healthiest and most varied diets.
But it’s vital to understand and recognize just how important this nutrient is to our neurological wellbeing. Every day, we see more and more research that attests to its impact on brain health, including a recent study that showed the association of lower serum 25-OH vitamin D with cognitive impairment and disability in multiple sclerosis (MS).
Before your body can utilize it, vitamin D must go through several processes. The first process occurs in the liver where your body converts vitamin D to a chemical known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D (also called calcidiol). The 25-hydroxy vitamin D test is the best way to monitor vitamin D levels; this test is also known as the 25-OH vitamin D test.
Low levels of vitamin have been correlated with not only a risk of MS as well as disease progression, but implicated in other neurodegenerative diseases too. Another study from Australia identified that low sun exposure and commensurate low vitamin D status is associated with an increased risk factor for developing pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis.
Research has shown that vitamin D can mediate neurotrophic and neuroprotective mechanisms of the central nervous system, and its deficiency is associated with worse cognitive performance in older adults. Higher vitamin D levels maintain immune homeostasis, and serve to predict neurofilaments, thus indicating less neuroaxonal loss. Homeostasis is the state of steady internal processes and essentially describes what is optimal functioning for our systems, and getting enough vitamin D can be a positive influence toward ensuring this “balance.”
Cumulative evidence also indicates that vitamin D can ameliorate neurodegeneration by regulating pertinent molecules and signaling pathways including maintaining Ca2+ homeostasis, reducing oxidative stress, inhibiting inflammation, suppressing the formation and aggregation of the pathogenic protein, and more. We’ve previously written (many times!) about inflammation being at the core of nearly every disease, including neurological conditions, and the impact of increased oxidative stress – so it just makes sense to do everything we can to reduce our risks!
Vitamin D deficiency is a universal problem, but it is a modifiable risk factor that we can address for our brain and overall health. In addition to the references we’ve included below, there are many related articles in our blog library so please stop by there for additional reading. Stay curious and stay well!
In hope and healing,
Dr. Suzanne Gazda
Gazda, S. Study finds vitamin D deficiency linked to impaired cognitive function in early stages of MS. suzannegazdamd.com. 2021.
Gazda, S. The indoor generation is missing out on vitamin D. suzannegazdamd.com. 2021.
Gazda, S. Vitamin D deficiency – is it another health crisis in the making? suzannegazdamd.com. 2020. https://www.suzannegazdamd.com/blog/vitamin-d-deficiency-is-it-another-health-crisis-in-the-making
Spezia, A.L. et al. Low serum 25‑hydroxy-vitamin D levels are associated with cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders. 2023.
Sullivan, D. 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D Test. Healthline. 2023.
Gazda, S. Vitamin D deficiency linked to neurodegenerative disease. suzannegazdamd.com. 2021. https://www.suzannegazdamd.com/blog/vitamin-d-deficiency-linked-to-neurodegenerative-disease
Sebastian, P. Association Between Time Spent Outdoors and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis. Neurology. 2022. https://n.neurology.org/content/98/3/e267
Annweiler C, Dursun E, Féron F, et al. 'Vitamin D and cognition in older adults': updated international recommendations. J Intern Med. 2015;277(1):45-57. doi:10.1111/joim.12279
Tera, J. et al. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with accelerated brain aging in the general population. Psychiatry Research & Neuroimaging. 2022.
Shea, M. et al. Brain vitamin D forms, cognitive decline, and neuropathology in community-dwelling older adults. The J of Alzheimer’s. Dec 2022.
Ghahremani M et al. Vitamin D supplementation and incident dementia: Effects of sex, APOE, and baseline cognitive status. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring. March 2023.
Wang, W. et al. Vitamin D and neurodegenerative diseases. Heliyon. 2023. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36820164/
Dr. Suzanne Gazda, Integrative Neurology