According to new scientific insights, vitamin D could play an important part in preventing neurological and psychiatric illnesses.
Recent scientific discoveries indicate that vitamin D in its active form calcitriol (vitamin D3) has a specific action within the brain, according to a report given by Dirk Lemke of the Median Klinik, a hospital specializing in neurological and orthopedic rehabilitation in Berlin, at a recent symposium entitled “Vitamin D Update 2011” which was held at Berlin’s Charité hospital (1). Neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effects as well as effects on the behavior of cells within the central and peripheral nervous system are now widely recognized, says the expert. Current epidemiological and experimental data indicate that vitamin D could have a key function in the prevention of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and stroke.
Researchers have discovered that vitamin D receptors are to be found in nerve cells in key regions of the human brain, including the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, thalamus and hippocampus (which forms part of the limbic system). In addition, enzymes that promote the localized production of calcitriol have been detected within the brain. As Dirk Lemke demonstrated, vitamin D could therefore influence the central nervous system. Apart from the very promising data presented by the researcher on the role of vitamin D in preventing neurological or psychiatric illnesses, he discerned clear indications to justify its therapeutic use at least for disease-related complications, and to support undertaking clinical studies to investigate other potential therapeutic benefits.
At the same conference several experts pointed out that blood levels of vitamin D are lower than they should be in over 50 percent of the German population – especially during the winter months. The speakers from home and abroad, 22 in all, came to the conclusion that, in addition to responsible exposure to sunlight, consumption of 1,000–2,000 IU vitamin D daily is desirable, especially during the winter. According to the American Institute of Medicine (IOM), the upper limit for a safe, long-term intake would be 4,000 IU per day.