Tag: vitamin D

Why Your Brain Loves Vitamin D

by Mia Syn, M.S., R.D.

Vitamin D has long been referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ Vitamin D researchers suggest that 5-30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to exposed skin without sunscreen will result in sufficient vitamin D synthesis. (1) However, research suggests that almost 50 percent of the world population has vitamin D insufficiency – an estimated 1 billion people. (2) This has been attributed to populations staying indoors more and environmental factors like air pollution, which can obstruct the sun’s rays. (2)

Vitamin D is important for not only brain health but bone mineralization as well. Women are more likely to suffer from a bone fracture than men. (3) Roughly 40 percent of white women 50 years old or older in the United States will experience a bone fracture in their lifetime. (3) With International Women’s Day in early March, it is important to shed light on this key nutrient and elucidate the best ways to obtain adequate amounts.

All about vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin obtained from food and dietary supplements, or made by the body. It is produced endogenously when skin is exposed to ultraviolent rays. This vitamin, however, is not active upon consumption. It must be activated through hydroxylation in the body, which occurs first in the liver, followed by the kidney. In the kidney, the activated form of vitamin D is produced in response to serum calcium and phosphorous concentrations. This is a reminder that several nutrients work synergistically with one another. Once vitamin D is activated, it acts as a hormone in the body.

Why your brain loves vitamin D

While the link between vitamin D and bone health has been largely explored, research just recently began illuminating the importance of vitamin D when it comes to brain health. Neuropsychiatric disorders such as cognitive impairment and dementia have been linked to vitamin D deficiency across the last decade of research. (4) The presence of vitamin D receptors in the brain implies that this vitamin plays a role in the functioning of this organ. (5) These receptors are largely located in areas associated with cognition and memory including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. (6) Additionally, the central nervous system has been identified as a target for vitamin D. Vitamin D metabolites have been found present in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the brain. (7)

There is evidence that vitamin D and its metabolites act to protect the brain through several mechanisms including promoting nerve growth and clearing amyloid plaques. (8) Because several neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by amyloid plaque buildup, this may be particularly beneficial.

Neurocognitive decline characterizes a large portion of the aging population. This population is especially at a high risk for vitamin D deficiency due to decreased synthesis and dietary intake. (9) Additionally, malnutrition is common in the elderly, which often accompanies other diseases that afflict these populations including diabetes and kidney disease.

How much do you need?

The recommended dietary intake for a healthy adult is 600 IU (15 mcg). However, elderly individuals over the age of 70 should aim for 800 IU (20 mcg). These intakes are established as sufficient to maintain bone health and normal calcium metabolism in healthy individuals.

Dark-skinned individuals are more prone to vitamin D deficiency since dark skin is higher in melanin and requires more sunlight to synthesize the vitamin. Research shows that vitamin D insufficiency is more prevalent among African Americans than other Americans. (10)

How can you get it?

There are few food sources that contain vitamin D which makes it that much more important to balance the need of sun exposure in moderation and supplementation where needed. Fatty fish including salmon, tuna and mackerel are known sources. Additionally, fortified foods provide a large portion of vitamin D in the American diet, including certain dairy products and breakfast cereals.

Sun exposure is an obvious answer when it comes to ways we can obtain vitamin D. However, there are several factors that determine the sufficiency including the season, time of day, cloud coverage, sunscreen and melanin content in the skin. The balance of sun exposure and skin protection from UV rays is a fine line. Ultra violet radiation is responsible for an estimated 1.5 million skin cancers yearly in America. (11)

Because of the few natural food sources of vitamin D coupled with the need to protect skin from the suns rays, dietary supplementation may be viable option to fill in gaps. Most dietary supplements contain vitamin D3, which has been considered the more efficacious form in its ability to raise active vitamin D levels in the serum while supplements containing the D2 form have been mostly considered less efficacious. (12)


  1. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med 2007;357:266-81
  2. Nair R, Maseeh A, et al: Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Phrmacother 2016; April-June.
  3. United States. (2004). Bone health and osteoporosis: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, Md: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General.
  4. Soni M, Kos K, et al. Vitamin D and cognitive function. Scand J Clin Lab Invest Suppl 2012.
  5. Harms L, Burne, THJ, et al. Vitamin D and the brain. Best Practice and Research Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011.
  6. Eyles DW, Smith S, Kinobe R, Hewison M, McGrath JJ. Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1 alpha-hydroxylase in human brain. J Chem Neuroanat. 2005;29:21–30.
  7. Balabanova S, Richter HP, Antoniadis G, Homoki J, Kremmer N, Hanle J, Teller WM. 25-Hydroxyvitamin D, 24, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D in human cerebrospinal fluid. Klin Wochenschr. 1984;62:1086–90.
  8. Schlog M. Holick MF. Vitamin D and neurocognitive function. Clin Inter Aging. 2014.
  9. Harris SS, Soteriades E, Coolidge JA, Mudgal S, Dawson-Hughes B. Vitamin D insufficiency and hyperparathyroidism in a low income, multiracial, elderly population. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000;85(11):4125-4130
  10. Harris S. Vitamin D and African Americans. The Journal of Nutrition. April 2006.
  11. Wolpowitz D, Gilchrest BA. The vitamin D questions: how much do you need and how should you get it? J Am Acad Dermatol 2006;54:301-17.
  12. Tripkovic L, Lambert H, Hart K, et al. Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(6):1357-1364.

The One Vitamin You Are Low In


By: Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D.

Unless you’re supplementing daily with vitamin D, it’s likely you are deficient and don’t even know it. Up to three in every four people tested are low in this vitamin. What’s the risk?

Until recently, vitamin D’s sole job was to support calcium absorption and deposition into bone, thus lowering osteoporosis risk. This role is now considered the tip of the nutritional iceberg.

Every cell in your body has receptors for vitamin D, which means every cell, tissue, organ, and system, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, needs the vitamin. It’s no wonder research shows that vitamin D might aid the body in muscle weakness, gum disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, hearing and vision loss, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and depression, among other health conditions. It also supports pregnancy outcome and reduces the incidence of falls by up to 60 percent in seniors, while a deficiency can mimic symptoms of fibromyalgia. Preliminary studies also show a possible link between low vitamin D intake and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and more.

Continue reading “The One Vitamin You Are Low In”

The Benefits of Vitamin D

As Americans begin to spend more time indoors and the daylight hours begin to shorten, it is important to consider your levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient, which allows our bodies to absorb calcium to build stronger bones. This is especially important during childhood and adolescence when there is rapid physical growth and development.

Vitamin D also keeps our immune system strong by stimulating immune cell proliferation and cytokine production. It also helps the regulation of metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. Additionally, there are well-recognized positive benefits of vitamin D on bone density and muscle strength.

It is especially important for children to consume adequate amounts of vitamin D because it assists in calcium absorption. Children’s developing bodies need higher levels of calcium to ensure bones are developed to their fullest potential. Research shows adolescents have the highest risk of developing vitamin D deficiency, which can cause bone deformities, muscle weakness, bone tenderness or pain. 

Although our bodies can make vitamin D from the sun, most dermatologists caution against prolonged direct sun exposure to avoid skin damage. Vitamin D can also be consumed by eating fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms or fortified milk like Silk Soymilk with DHA Omega-3.

 In addition to vitamin D-rich foods, many people opt to take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they are getting adequate amounts of the nutrient. Try a daily multi-vitamin like One A Day VitaCraves Gummies to ensure you are getting all the important vitamins you may be missing in your diet. 

The benefits of omega-3s for infants

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, for infants. Researchers found higher intakes of DHA during pregnancy were associated with longer gestation duration and birth size. DHA omega-3 is considered one of most important nutrients for babies, along with folic acid and calcium with vitamin D, because it is important for brain and eye development. Talk with your healthcare provider about prenatal supplements with DHA, like Enfamil Expecta Prenatal Supplement.


Hot Nutrition Tips (Part I)

Nutrition has never been so hot. According to Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy,” recent research has enhanced the field of nutrition. From vitamins to oats, check out some of the recent findings.

Hot Discovery #1: Vitamin D works far beyond its role as a bone-builder

Last year marked the 100th birthday of the discovery of the first vitamin. We’ve come a long way since then and in the past few years, we have found that every cell in the body has receptors for vitamin D and it is essential for helping to prevent several diseases, as well as helping to maintain muscle in elderly.

 Even in sunny areas, up to 80 percent of the population is low in vitamin D. So consider first having your blood levels checked, and if you are low, supplement!

Hot Discovery #2: Tomato extract helps improve blood flow

There are several things you can do to help decrease your risk for heart disease like eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, avoiding tobacco and exercising at least 30 minutes a day.

You can also try a new tomato extract, Fruitflow, is now being added to food products and supplements, and supports healthy blood flow.

Hot Discovery #3: Oats: A good option for weight control

This simple, old-fashioned favorite helps maintain a healthy weight thanks to the combination of fiber and water, which fills you up on fewer calories and digests slowly so you are satisfied between breakfast and lunch, and less likely to be grazing at the fridge or vending machine.

Hot Discovery #4: Probiotics for health

Remember the days when yogurt was a health food for hippies? Not anymore. Yogurt has gone mainstream and rightfully so. The bacteria found in yogurt can help boost your immune system. Choose plain, nonfat yogurt and sweeten it yourself with fruit or a little jam.

How will you reinvigorate your diet with these hot nutrition tips?

Building Beautiful Minds – The “Big 3” for Baby & Me

Let’s start at the beginning and look at some of the important building blocks for every woman’s diet during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to help support positive brain health of their babies.

  • Folic acid is a B vitamin important for healthy cells. Diets with adequate folic acid may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with a brain or spinal birth defect.
  • Calcium with vitamin D is essential for infant development and for the long-term health of the mother. Vitamin D helps the body absorb and retain calcium. Consuming plenty of calcium with vitamin D during pregnancy promotes strong bones and teeth. It also supports a healthy heart, nerves and muscles for the baby. Adequate maternal calcium intake ensures that enough is available to meet the needs of both mother and baby.
  • DHA omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid important for brain, eye and heart health. A diet rich in DHA during pregnancy and breastfeeding may play a role in supporting healthy pregnancies, helping a mother’s emotional well-being after birth and aiding the mental and visual development of infants.

Women can get the “Big 3” nutrients through a well-balanced diet. Moms pass these important nutrients along to their developing infants via the placenta during pregnancy and through breast milk after birth.

Women know the importance of folic acid and calcium with vitamin D, but many are not familiar with DHA omega-3. However, scientific evidence demonstrates that DHA omega-3 is an important building block of perinatal nutrition.