If you’re not already a D-devotee, a new University of Kentucky (UK) study on vitamin D benefits may very well change your mind. Well, that’s if you don’t end up losing it first.

Let me explain.

You, of course, already know that D is essential for healthy muscles and bones. In fact, maintaining your levels may even be the key to keeping you out of a nursing home. Click here to learn more on the NorthStar Blog.

And as a NorthStar Blog reader you also know about this essential vitamin’s vital role in cancer and diabetes prevention, blood pressure maintenance and heart health.

This is your brain without D

I’ve even told you about vitamin D benefits for brain health. The sunshine vitamin may play an important part in warding off Alzheimer’s disease. Deficiencies of D have been linked to Parkinson’s disease. And if you’ve ever experienced the winter blahs you sure don’t need me to tell you how important D is to warding off depression.

But now, researchers say the vitamin’s role in brain health could be even stronger than we ever imagined.

The animal study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, found that rats that were fed a low D diet for several months developed free-radical brain damage. That’s important because free radicals in your brain can lead to oxidation, memory loss, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Low D led to memory and learning problems

And, in fact, the poor critters in the study did suffer a significant drop in their cognitive performance on memory and learning tests.

According to the UK scientists, a number of different brain proteins were damaged by the lack of D. And there’s every reason to believe that something similar happens in our own brains when our D levels drop too low.

With some experts saying that up to 90 percent of people are walking around with less than optimal D levels and that means the vast majority of us may be in serious danger of low-D brain damage. But, while experts tend to disagree on just how many of us are D deficient, one thing they DO agree on is that D deficiency is wide-spread among seniors. This means, of course, that those of us who are starting to go gray need to be extra careful about keeping our levels up in order to reap the vitamin D benefits.

Now, of course, I’ve been preaching about vitamin D benefits for many years now, but it looks like the mainstream is finally catching on, too. According to Allan Butterfield—lead author on this new study and professor in the UK Department of Chemistry—we need to maintain adequate vitamin D levels to prevent free radical damage in our brains.

Welcome to the vitamin D fan club, Dr. Butterfield. I would also add to your solid D advice that maintaining those healthy D levels could also help us avoid Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and more.

Top off your D levels

Pretty impressive for a vitamin you can get for free simply by spending 15 minutes or so outside in the sunshine every day. And if cold weather, a busy schedule or disability is keeping you indoors you can always top of your D levels by eating a D-rich diet (fish and fish oil are great sources), or by taking a supplement.

I generally recommend taking 2,000 to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. Try to take your D with a meal containing healthy fats, such as olive oil or a serving of fatty fish (a fish oil supplement will work too) to help your body better absorb the vital nutrient.

To find out if you’re D deficient, talk with your doctor. He can run a simple blood test to check your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.