Sunshine is the gift that just keeps on giving. Just about any good thing you like your body to do is improved by good ol’ UVB exposure. If there’s not a study on it, then there are ten studies on it.
Stronger muscles, higher testosterone, increased fertility, stronger erections, improved mood, more manageable PMS, better workout recovery, stronger immunity, less body fat, reduced cancer risk, reduced autoimmune disorder risk, extended lifespan, higher quality of old-age life, healthier pregnancies, healthier babies – and…
Healthier, smarter brains.
Today we’re gonna talk about the positive effects of vitamin D and bright light, aka SUNSHINE, on cognitive function and brain health.
Sunbathing for a Healthier, Smarter Brain – Increase Your Intelligence Today
Are nudists smarter people?
Hmmm, probably, but there’s no studies investigating that particular question…. yet.
However, we can reasonably conclude that people who are nudists and regularly enjoy full-body sun exposure are very likely smarter than they would be if they were not living that lifestyle.
There’s a whole lot of evidence that vitamin D is really, really good for your brain, just like it’s good for every other part of your body.
(And, in case you’re new to the blog, the way our bodies are evolved to get vitamin D is primarily from sun exposure to our unprotected, naked skin. See here if you’d like to learn more about that process. We’re not meant to get vitamin D from food. It is literally impossible to get adequate vitamin D from food.)
I’m going to lay out evidence and studies that have found vitamin D not only measurably improves cognitive performance, but can even measurably heal brain damage, prevent degenerative brain diseases, reduce the risk of developing mental disorders, and promote healthier brain development in the womb.
First – Vitamin D Heals and Prevents Multiple Sclerosis
I bring up multiple sclerosis because treating this disease is at the forefront of research on vitamin D’s influence on the brain. Many of the best studies on vitamin D and the brain are being done to investigate the role of vitamin D deficiency in multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is a horrifying autoimmune disorder where the immune system becomes extremely confused and begins to attack the entire central nervous system – brain, brain stem, nerves, and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis is often fatal and sufferers experience an absolutely brutal decline in their health as the disease progresses including paralysis leading to total wheelchair dependence, extreme coordination and motor skill problems, organ failure, seizures, extreme weakness, vision loss, loss of bowel and bladder control, and extreme cognitive impairment. It may very well be the worst health-related way to die.
Brain scans of MS patients, like this one below, reveal they literally have holes developing in their brains. As the disease progresses these “lesions” grow, multiply, and produce scar tissue. Multiple sclerosis patients also experience accelerated loss of grey matter and neurons.
(Photo Credit: Govind Bhagavatheeshwaran, Daniel Reich, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health)
To put it crudely, multiple sclerosis patients are experiencing the shrinking and dissolving of their brain.
Amazingly, vitamin D has been proven to be capable of REVERSING multiple sclerosis.
A Brazilian neurologist named Cicero Coimbra has pioneered a treatment method for multiple sclerosis and autoimmune disorders using incredibly high doses of vitamin D, given under very close medical supervision.
One of his patients, Ana Claudia Domene, wrote a book about her journey called Multiple Sclerosis and (lots of) Vitamin D. Domene went from being almost completely disabled – physically and mentally – to being able to live a totally normal life after switching to Dr. Coimbra’s high-dose vitamin D therapy protocol.
Not only was her MS put into remission and symptoms reversed, but her brain lesions are slowly healing. Within 16 months of starting Coimbra’s program one of Domene’s smaller lesions had completely disappeared and over the next decade some of her other lesions measurably shrunk. This is called remyelination. Her brain is rebuilding the protein layers around her nerves that her previously malfunctioning immune system had destroyed. But remyelination is certainly not the norm among MS patients. This is progress being uniquely observed in those on the high-dose vitamin D Coimbra protocol.
And she’s not the only one enjoying remyelination. Her book provides many other case studies of other Coimbra patients making even more miraculous recoveries, including other cases of brain lesions healing.
His protocol has since spread around the world with many doctors now using the same strategy.
Multiple sclerosis is actually considered a long-latency vitamin D-deficiency disease that seems to be determined in the womb and during infancy. Vitamin D deficiency suffered during fetal development may permanently and significantly increases a person’s risk for multiple sclerosis for the rest of their life. This study found that children born from mothers with low vitamin D levels are at nearly double the risk of developing MS later in life compared to kids from mothers who have higher levels during pregnancy.
Multiple sclerosis has also been found to be more common father away from the equator, where there is less vitamin D-providing UVB sunshine.
Vitamin D treats MS so effectively because of its role in immunomodulation. Without adequate vitamin D the identification functions of our immune systems start to fail. The immune system will start to overlook actual viral and bacterial threats and mistakenly label our own cells and tissues as threats. Vitamin D deficiency is highly associated with other autoimmune disorders like type-1 diabetes (where the immune system attacks the pancreas) and psoriasis.
Here’s a giant list of fascinating studies I compiled on vitamin D and multiple sclerosis.
A 2015 study added massive support to vitamin D by finding that adding vitamin D to brain stem cells increased production of oligodendrocytes (myelin-making cells responsible for protecting nerves) by 80%.
Even month of conception and month of birth are being found to be potential factors in multiple sclerosis, as vitamin D levels typically fluctuate with the seasons and this can have big effects on a baby in the womb.
So it’s not just that vitamin D makes your brain work better – vitamin D literally protects against brain-melting autoimmune disorders and can even potentially heal and reverse the brain damage MS causes.
Vitamin D Improves Memory
One of the many cognitive difficulties multiple sclerosis patients suffer is impaired memory. Here’s a study where 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily was effective at measurably improving the memory performances of MS patients.
Here’s one where just 4,000 IU per day was found to be effective for improving visual, non-verbal memory in subjects.
Vitamin D Prevents Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
In an 8-year study of 1,658 elderly people, there was an increased rate of alzheimer’s disease and dementia among those with lower vitamin D levels compared to those with higher vitamin D levels.
This meta-analysis of 8 different studies (thousands of participants) evaluating vitamin D levels, cognitive function, and mental health found that those with lower vitamin D levels had worse cognitive function and a higher incidence of Alzheimer disease.
This is a seven-year study where forty healthy elderly women were divided into two groups based on their vitamin D levels, a lower vitamin D level group and a higher vitamin D level group. Researchers followed up with the women seven years later and the women who had lower vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study had a higher incidence rate of non-Alzheimer dementia. “Baseline vitamin D deficiency predicted the onset of NAD within 7 years among older women.”
Vitamin D Improves Reaction Time
Randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 139 elderly patients found that vitamin D was effective for improving reaction time, which is important for helping prevent life-threatening falls in the elderly.
Vitamin D Improves General Cognition
2,940 elderly Koreans were evaluated for vitamin D status and cognitive function. Those with the lowest vitamin D levels were found to have a higher rate of cognitive impairment compared to those with the highest levels.
This study of 2,273 elderly Singaporeans found the exact same thing.
This study of 254 Lebanese adults found the exact same thing.
This one of 3,325 elderly Americans found the exact same thing.
Vitamin D Slows Age-Related Cognitive Decline
This four-year study of 2,777 elderly people found that those with lower vitamin D levels had worse cognitive function and experienced a greater decline in cognitive function over the four years compared to those with higher vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D Improves Neuronal Integrity
This one is cool. 109 memory-impaired patients were evaluated for vitamin D status and underwent brain scans using “diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging.” What they found was that those with the lowest vitamin D levels had worse-looking brains.
Vitamin D Gives You a BIGGER Brain
217 elderly Dutch people were evaluated for vitamin D status and underwent MRI brain scans. Those with higher vitamin D levels also had higher volumes of grey matter in their brains.
This study found that among multiple sclerosis patients, each additional 10 ng/ml in their vitamin D levels was associated with a 7.8 ml increase in their grey matter volume.
Vitamin D is Essential for Fetal Brain Development
This very long-term study measured the vitamin D levels of 743 pregnant women halfway into their pregnancies (18 weeks) and then followed up and examined their children 5 and 10 years later. The researchers found that children from mothers who had low vitamin D levels during their pregnancy were twice as likely to be struggling with “clinically significant language difficulties” compared to children from mothers who had much better vitamin D levels.
There’s a lot of rat and mice studies comparing the brains of pups born from vitamin D-deficient mothers and vitamin D-sufficient mothers (can’t do these studies on humans!) and it’s not good. The brains of the vitamin D-deficient offspring are measurably different.
This study found that rat pups born from vitamin D-deficient mothers suffered from dysregulation of 36 different brain proteins.
This study found that rat pups who suffer stunted brain development from fetal vitamin D-deficiency continue to exhibit this stunted brain development into adult age.
There’s also a few studies linking fetal vitamin D deficiency to development of schizophrenia later in life.
Vitamin D and Bright Light Reduce Depression
In this study 441 obese participants were enrolled into a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial testing the effectiveness of vitamin D for depression. Subjects were given either 20,000 IU vitamin D weekly for one year, 40,000 IU weekly for one year, or placebo weekly for one year. At the end of the study those in the vitamin D groups exhibited improved depression scores, but the placebo group did not. Those with lower vitamin D levels were also found to have worse depression scores compared to those with higher vitamin D levels.
Now this one is truly amazing. Bright light (you know… like SUNLIGHT) was found to be superior to the pharmaceutical antidepressant imipramine for treating depression. 34 adult in-patients suffering from non-seasonal major depressive order were split into three groups to compare the 3-week treatment effectiveness of the following: A) bright light therapy combined with the antidepressant drug imipramine, B) bright light therapy combined with a placebo, and C) imipramine combined with placebo light therapy. All three groups enjoyed significant improvement, but, AMAZINGLY, just bright light therapy alone (B) was found to be superior to just imipramine (C), as well as the combination of imipramine/bright light (A).
Vitamin D Effectively Reduces Autism Symptom Severity
The research on vitamin D and autism is in its early stages, but the amount of findings already discovered is staggering.
Dr. John Cannell’s book Autism Causes: Prevention and Treatment contains over 300 vitamin D-related references piecing together the science behind this link. (In addition to being a scientist, medical doctor, and psychiatrist – Cannell is also himself a “broad phenotype” autist, providing him with a very unique understanding to share).
One key discovery was made by scientists Rhonda Patrick and Bruce Ames. They found that vitamin D is responsible for regulating the amount of serotonin in our blood vs the amount of serotonin in our brain.
Those with autism have unusually low, inadequate serotonin in their brains and unusually high serotonin in their blood. Autists have also been found in careful, lifestyle-matched control studies to have impaired vitamin D endocrine systems. They lack the natural ability to create adequate amounts of vitamin D resulting in them having abnormally low vitamin D levels, the lack of vitamin D leads to a misregulation of serotonin synthesis in their bodies, leaving their brains serotonin-starved, contributing to physical brain development problems and behavioral symptoms of autism.
By increasing vitamin D levels in autists these symptoms can be reduced, allowing them to lead potentially normal, independent lives. It can be the difference between a child being placed in special-ed classes at school or normal classes.
Personally, I’ve been found in an evaluation to be very mildly autistic, on the least-severe end of “the spectrum.” One reason I may have such brutal seasonal affective disorder is that the lack of sun in winter makes me more autistic. I’ve noticed, and those in my life have noticed, that I’m much more social and extroverted in the summer, when the sun is 3x stronger. It’s normal for me to receive comments in the summer like “Austin, what’s gotten into you?” UVB rays got into me!
Years ago I accidentally ingested 3,000,000 IU of vitamin D due to me incorrectly following a confusing dosing guide on a liquid vitamin D supplement. This is dangerous and nobody should take that much, but one side effect was that I was extremely social and extroverted for days after.
Strangely, the disorder considered to be the exact opposite of autism, William’s syndrome, has its own, opposite, vitamin D problem.
Williams syndrome, known for producing abnormally social, friendly, extroverted behavior, also features unusually high sensitivity to vitamin D. Those with William’s syndrome frequently experience hypercalcemia (too much calcium in blood), which is the effect of vitamin D overdose (vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium). People with William’s syndrome actually must avoid vitamin D.
Autists, characterized by their extreme introversion, have abnormally low vitamin D levels. People with William’s syndrome, known for their extremely extroverted behavior, have abnormally high levels of activated vitamin D.
It appears that vitamin D may play a significant role in personality temperament.
Other findings are people with darker skin (which impairs vitamin D synthesis) and who live in less sunny places (less vitamin D) have higher rates of autism. One example is there is a shockingly high prevalence of autism among second generation Somali immigrant to Minnesota. Somalia is literally located right at the equator – very intense sun. For this reason, native Somalis have very dark skin, which is perfect for this environment. They have evolved and developed this dark skin over many, many millennia to endure the intense equatorial sun. Melanin is literally natural sunscreen – that is its biological purpose.
But Minnesota, located on the Canadian border, is very far from the equator. The sun is very weak in Minnesota. Biologically-speaking, it’s only a suitable place to live for very light-skinned people. It is impossible for a dark-skinned person to maintain adequate vitamin D levels so far from the equator without proper, medically-supervised vitamin D supplementation. As a result, Somalis in Minnesota are suffering an unusual epidemic of vitamin D-deficiency diseases such as osteomalacia and autism. In addition to dark skin and high-latitude, the full-body veiled clothing of Somali women is probably the biggest factor in their vitamin D-deficiency. Clothing stops vitamin D production, see here.
Autism has also been rising over the years as vitamin D levels have been falling. Every decade the rate of autism increases and every decade population vitamin D levels in the west are decreasing.
Treatment case studies are emerging such as this one where a 32-month-year-old boy in China demonstrated severe autism symptoms. A blood test revealed that his vitamin D level was an extremely low 12.5 ng/ml. Following two months of high-dose vitamin D therapy, his vitamin D level was raised to 81 ng/ml and he demonstrated significant improvement in his symptoms. Dr. Cannell’s book also provides similar case studies from his own medical practice.
No one is saying that autism is solely a matter of vitamin D, but there is now a developing mountain of evidence revealing that vitamin D is, at the very least, a very significant factor.
For even more evidence see Health Studies Regarding Vitamin D and Autism Spectrum Disorder
People just don’t get outside much these days
This is a new phenomenon in human history. For 99.999999999999% of the time humans have been around they were outside all the time and wore just enough clothing to protect from the harsh elements of nature. If you wanted to go somewhere you had to walk, take a horse, or take a primitive boat – no sheltered vehicle. Without air conditioning, staying indoors all day every day would not have been appealing. If you wanted food, your entire food supply was accessible only by spending great amounts of time outside. Clothing was difficult and time-consuming to produce and was probably impossible to produce in a fashionable, stylish way – eliminating the aesthetic reasons for clothing.
Our ancestors were mostly naked, most of the time, and spending most of their time outdoors. They had much, much higher vitamin D levels and therefore vitamin D deficiency diseases were probably extraordinarily rare, if existent at all, and it’s no surprise that they also had bigger brains.
As our species increasingly moves into a totally indoor, sun-avoiding way of living, we are also seeing the dropping of vitamin D levels and the rise of vitamin D deficiency symptoms and diseases. Depression rates are increasing, autoimmune disorders are increasing, cancer rates are increasing, testosterone levels are dropping, fertility is dropping, we have an opioid painkiller epidemic, rickets is returning to the first world, autism is exploding, and you know what else?
We’re all getting DUMBER.
BUCK THE TREND
Don’t get dumber. Don’t participate in the degeneration and extinction of our species. Get sunshine often. Get as naked as you can when you do. If you can’t get sunshine then take a decent vitamin D supplement. Don’t let your brain melt.
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Get your vitamin D level tested. Order a kit off Amazon and take a step toward protecting your brain.
Until next time,