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When someone tells you that sunlight is good for your health, you are not lying. The main benefit of sunlight is vitamin D. Often referred to as "the sun's vitamin", it is currently one of the least used nutritional supplements for physical and cognitive health.
Most people in the western world live in regions where sunlight is inconsistent for many months of the year. Because of this, supplementation is often recommended (either through fish products or pure vitamin D supplements).
The benefits of vitamin D are plentiful, but the brain is one of the greatest benefactors. Studies show an increase in cognitive abilities with an adequate amount of vitamin D. There is evidence that vitamin D regulates serotonin and, therefore, influences anxiety and depression.
Benefits of vitamin D
The benefits of vitamin D range from improving cognitive performance to reducing neurological deterioration and even supporting a healthier mood (reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression).
A study in animals showed that long-term treatment of vitamin D could help slow the rate of decline in the hippocampus (where memories are stored) that shows promising neuroprotective effects. This may be one of the correlations between vitamin D and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's.
Some studies show that vitamin D supplementation may reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and there is an inverse relationship between serum vitamin D and the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The same inverse relationship exists with Parkinson's disease.
Unfortunately, when the adults were evaluated (who had sufficient levels of vitamin D), the addition of 5000 IU of vitamin D could not influence any cognitive indicator. Therefore, some might conclude that vitamin D is a responsibility when one is deficient, but it is not necessarily a great cognitive advantage in large quantities.
Of course, one of the main benefits of vitamin D is related to mood and particularly to anxiety and depression. One study showed that depressed adults with vitamin D deficiency could decrease symptoms by 42%. There seems to be ample evidence against this hypothesis as well, but recent research shows a potential mechanism to improve mood and reduce anxiety.
In a study dated in 2014, Dr. Rhonda Patrick demonstrated that vitamin D is necessary to regulate serotonin. While his study focused on how this might help reduce the symptoms of autism, it is still interesting given the context of mood and the reduction of anxiety.
Video credits to Nootropedia YouTube channel