The UK study led by University of Kentucky researchers showed that middle-aged rats that were fed a diet low in vitamin D for several months developed free radical damage to the brain, and many different brain proteins were damaged as identified by redox proteomics.
These rats also showed a significant decrease in cognitive performance on tests of learning and memory.
"Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how during aging from middle-age to old-age how low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain," lead author of the study Allan Butterfield, said. "Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences."
Previously, low levels of vitamin D have been associated with Alzheimer's disease, and it's also been linked to the development of certain cancers and heart disease.
The study was published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine.