Getting enough vitamin D may not just be good for your bone health; it may keep your brain healthy as well.

According to a new study published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, rats who were fed diets low in vitamin D for a long period of time developed free radical brain damage and performed poorly in cognitive functioning tests compared to rats fed a normal diet, Medical News Today reported.

The researchers also found that the rats who were vitamin D deficient had significantly higher levels of several other brain proteins, which potentially contributed to significant nitrosative stress in the brain.

Previous studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and the development of some cancers.  Although this study was performed on rodents, the researchers argued that with vitamin D deficiency increasing in the United States, its potential effects on the aging population should not go overlooked.

"Given that vitamin D deficiency is especially widespread among the elderly, we investigated how, during aging from middle-age to old-age, low vitamin D affected the oxidative status of the brain,”said lead author Allan Butterfield,  professor in the U.K. Department of Chemistry and director of the Center of Membrane Sciences.  “Adequate vitamin D serum levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in brain and subsequent deleterious consequences."

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