How Vitamin D Affects Cognitive Function & Mood, According To Research*
It's no secret that vitamin D plays an integral role in everything from immunity to bone health, but few realize it's a superstar when it comes to brain health, as well.* If you needed another reason to prioritize your vitamin D intake, here are three key ways the sunshine vitamin promotes cognitive function (and mood, too):*
1. It supports the health of our nervous system.
Our nervous systems have all sorts of receptors for various hormones, and vitamin D receptors are one of them—meaning there's a reason those D receptors are in our brain and central nervous system broadly. As it turns out, this essential fat-soluble micronutrient wonder is a big player in supporting nervous system function and brain health.*
In fact, research has shown that vitamin D has neuroprotective effects1, thanks to its impact on the production and release of neurotrophins (key proteins required for both the development and survival of neurons).* Additionally, vitamin D helps protect nervous tissues from oxidative stress and ensures balanced calcium levels in our blood (and cells, including the nervous system).* As it turns out, calcium is a major signaling compound inside cells and ensures neurons fire properly, which has implications for our entire body.
2. It helps maintain cognitive function as we age.
As we get older, processes like oxidative stress and aging organs and systems can manifest as cognitive function that's not as acute and ripe as our earlier years, but according to assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine Nicole Avena, Ph.D., vitamin D helps buffer against these processes.*
In a 2019 Journal of Aging Research meta-analysis of vitamin D's effects2, a clear connection was identified between vitamin D levels (i.e., how healthy your vitamin D status is) and age-related cognitive function.* The study authors found that insufficient and deficient levels of vitamin D are tied to less optimal global (aka overall) cognitive health parameters, while vitamin D sufficiency was linked to a protective decrease in key brain biomarkers.*
Adding to the list of ways vitamin D supports the aging population, Avena previously told mbg that vitamin D receptors can be found in the area of the brain that forms new memories, "which may be compelling evidence that vitamin D is related to the proper creation of new memories."*
3. It provides mood support and promotes emotional well-being.
And of course, we can't forget vitamin D's connection to mood. Not only has vitamin D been found to help regulate melatonin and serotonin3 (two hormones very involved in mood), but it also affects our gut health by promoting beneficial bacteria and supporting the integrity of the gut lining.*
If you're at all familiar with optimal gut health, you already know a healthy gut helps support a good mood.*
The more we learn about vitamin D, the more it becomes abundantly clear that we should all ensure we're getting enough of it. So, consider this your friendly reminder to take your daily high-quality vitamin D supplement (like mbg's vitamin D3 potency+ that delivers organic D3 and built-in absorption technology)—and get some sunshine if you can, too.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.