Vitamin D3 Deficiency and Cognitive Health
This is a guest post from Mansal Denton, the founder of Hyperion Strength, which is a platform to optimize mental and physical performance. When he isn’t obsessing over creatine, you can find him doing Acro yoga or exploring consciousness.
Despite the importance, more people are deficient in vitamin D than any other nutrient (magnesium is a close second). The rich world rarely has to worry about vitamin and mineral deficiencies, but geography and diet often spell disaster.
If you are not living near the equator (between the 37th parallels), spending 20 – 30 minutes outside per day, or eating copious quantities of dairy, eggs, and fish, you are most likely deficient in vitamin D.
Despite living in Austin, Texas (with approximately 300 days of sunshine) and eating eggs / fish regularly, my recent micronutrient experiment indicated I was deficient around 50% of the time. Some days I only got 25.38% of my target vitamin D (4000 IU). For the majority of employees working indoors, vitamin D supplementation is imperative for optimal physical and cognitive function.
Sources of Vitamin D and Deficiencies
Vitamin D is one of 24 essential micronutrients needed for survival. Unlike many other nutrients found in vegetables, vitamin D comes from fish, eggs, some dairy products and sunlight. The body uses cholesterol (7-dehydrocholesterol) to create vitamin D through adequate amounts of ultra violent light (UV index <3).
Food sources of vitamin D are great, but they are impractical for modern lifestyles. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) in he United States is 400 – 800 IU / day, which is far from the optimal 4000 – 8000 IU.
Salmon has around 500 IU per 4 ounce serving, but the second best food only has 175 IU for a similar weight. Eating an entire pound of salmon would yield only 2000 IU and you would need to fit that into your daily budget and diet!
With vitamin D deficiencies there are a variety of health complications; rickets is the most well known. Immune systems start to break down, bone health deteriorates, and deficiency is implicated in symptoms of depression.
Aging and Cognition
As if immune health, bone degradation, and depression were not enough to convince you to supplement with vitamin D, perhaps the effects on aging and cognition will persuade you.
Oxidative damage and telomere shortening are two major markers of aging. Vitamin D can reduce oxidative damage and prevent telomere shortening. This DNA repair helps prevent rapid aging, which plagues much of society.
Vitamin D also has an integral role in activating serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin, which are neurochemicals that can influence cognitive abilities and mood. By activating the gene that converts tryptophan into serotonin, vitamin D can have an important role for preventing cognitive decline.
Supplementing with Vitamin D
As vitamin D is one of the nutrients most people are deficient, it is a good idea to consider supplementation. One expert editor from Examine.com states,“If there’s only one supplement you’re taking for your health and your diet is decent, it should probably be Vitamin D. I highly recommend taking Vitamin D instead of a multivitamin most of the time.”
Getting the right kind of vitamin D matters. There is vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and the latter is far more bioavailable and useful for supplementation. At least 3 – 4 major studies indicate that vitamin D3 supplementation is superior than vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3 supplementation at 5000 IU with a fat source (such as fish oil or coconut oil) is a great way to start. Use many of the tools to track cognitive improvements with this starting dosage and see whether your personal needs require more or less.