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I was recently given the results of some blood work I had had done and was amazed to be told that my vitamin D levels were a little low and I need to start taking some vitamin D supplements.

My surprise was due to the fact that as an Australian living in a sunny climate, I had thought my sun exposure through daily walking and exercise would have kept my vitamin D levels more than adequately topped up. Obviously not.

Vitamin D is known to be important for maintaining strong muscles and bones.
It is also important in helping keep our brain clear of amyloid.

Having a low level of vitamin D3 has been associated with cognitive decline
Previous studies have looked at the role of vitamin D in combination with turmeric (curcumin), which was shown to stimulate the body’s immune system to clear amyloid beta, although the mechanism of how this was achieved was not understood.

Our immune system includes cells called macrophages, which act as rubbish scavengers removing waste products and amyloid in a process called phagocytosis. They surround the waste and engulf it. We have two types of macrophages, imaginatively called Type One and Type Two. (This makes me think of B1 and B2 from “Bananas in Pyjamas” – but I digress.)

The earlier studies showed that the efficiency of Type One macrophages was enhanced, by adding vitamin D3 and curcurminoids, while Type two macrophages were improved by adding the vitamin only. In a new collaborative study using a technique called mass spectrometry, the researchers have shown that not only is vitamin D3 important in supporting phagocytosis by the macrophages it also has a role in regulating the activity of gene expression.

The implication is that Vitamin D3 may be a possible future therapeutic agent for Alzheimer’s disease. To investigate this further a clinical trial will need to be carried out to see what if any impact it may have for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile the researchers say it is too early to recommend a definitive dose of Vitamin D3 to help with brain health and Alzheimer’s.

Nevertheless, I shall be taking my daily supplement to ensure my levels are restored to normal. The other message is that it could be a good idea to have your Vitamin D levels checked occasionally, to ensure they are in the normal range, even if you think you spend enough time outside.

Mathew T. Mizwicki, Danusa Menegaz, Jun Zhang, Antonio Barrientos-Durán, Stephen Tse, John R. Cashman, Patrick R. Griffin, Milan Fiala , 
Genomic and Nongenomic Signaling Induced by 1α,25(OH)2-Vitamin D3 Promotes the Recovery of Amyloid-β Phagocytosis by Alzheimer’s Disease Macrophages: Journal Of Alzheimer’s Disease. Volume 29, Number 1, March 2012 Pages 51-62

Image by Zazzle

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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