Vitamin D supplementation found to prevent decline in memory and learning, research finds
08/29/2019 // Stephanie Diaz // Views

Vitamin D is well-known for having a wide range of beneficial effects on the human body. The so-called “sunshine vitamin” is responsible for better bone health, a stronger immune system, improved lung function, and a healthier heart. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a higher risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), and it’s also known to negatively impact insulin production among people with Type 2 diabetes.

A new study now suggests that vitamin D may also affect the mind. In particular, vitamin D deficiency may have adverse cognitive effects, such as poor memory and even schizophrenia.

Vitamin D can prevent memory-related diseases

Researchers at the University of Queensland Brain Institute spent 20 weeks observing adult mice that were deprived of vitamin D, and a control group. They found that mice with vitamin D deficiency performed poorly in cognitive tests. The vitamin-deficient mice had difficulty learning new things and exhibited poor short-term memory. (Related: How vitamin D supports brain health and works to reduce depression risk.)

Brain scans showed that the rodents had a reduction in perineuronal nets in the hippocampus. “These nets form a strong, supportive mesh around certain neurons, and in doing so, they stabilize the contacts these cells make with other neurons,” said head researcher Thomas Burme. “As neurons in the hippocampus lose their supportive perineuronal nets, they have trouble maintaining connections, and this ultimately leads to a loss of cognitive function.”

Burme added, “There was also a stark reduction in both the number and strength of connections between neurons in [the hippocampus].”


The hippocampus is a small area in the brain associated mainly with memory formation. It is also linked to spatial navigation, spatial memory, and behavioral inhibition.

“Unfortunately, exactly how vitamin D influences brain structure and function is not well-understood, so it has remained unclear why deficiency causes problems,” said Burne. The authors believed that vitamin D deficiency affects perineuronal nets by making them more vulnerable to the degrading action of enzymes.

Burne and his team also suggested that the impaired function of the hippocampus due to vitamin D deficiency may be responsible for some symptoms observed among patients with schizophrenia, including memory loss and cognitive distortions. Further study could have therapeutic implications for these schizophrenic symptoms.

“The next step is to test this new hypothesis on the link between vitamin D deficiency, perineuronal nets, and cognition,” said Burne.

The importance of getting enough vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients needed by the body to function properly. It’s important to avoid vitamin D deficiency for these reasons:

  • Stronger bones: Vitamin D helps the body regulate calcium while maintaining phosphorus levels in the blood. It also improves vitamin D absorption in the intestines. This makes vitamin D crucial for strong and healthy bones.
  • Better immune system: One study gave children 1,200 International Units (UI) of vitamin D for four months and observed a reduced risk of influenza A infection for those kids by over 40 percent.
  • Reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes: Vitamin D deficiency among people with Type 2 diabetes is linked to poorer insulin secretion and glucose tolerance. A study that followed infants who received 2,000 UI of vitamin D daily saw an 88 percent decreased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by the age of 32.

Among the diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency are cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and swine flu.

Detailed below are the recommended daily intake of vitamin D according to the U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM):

  • Infants 0-12 months: 400 IU (10 micrograms [mcg])
  • Children 1-18 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
  • Adults aged 70: 600 IU (15 mcg)
  • Adults over 70: 800 IU (20 mcg)
  • Pregnant or lactating women: 600 IU (15 mcg)

To know more about vitamin D and its effect on brain health, visit

Sources include: 1 2

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