A little sunshine can do wonders to our mood; we emerge, a grey hue from hibernation, soak up the warmth and begin engaging in socialisation. But sun doesn’t just mean barbeques, parties and flip flops. The sun is essential to the overall health and functioning of our brain, according to a new study published in the ‘Free Radical Biology and Medicine’ journal, a vitamin D deficiency may damage your brain.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky wished to investigate “how during aging from middle-age to old-age low vitamin D affected the oxidative status in the brain” as explained by the study’s lead author Allan Butterfield Professor at the UK department of chemistry, director of the centre of membrane sciences, faculty of Sanders-Brown centre on aging, director of the free radical biology in cancer core of the Markey cancer centre, (he has achieved a lot)!
After rats were fed a diet low in vitamin D for a few months, the researchers noticed tiny molecules in the rat’s brains were damaged. The rats consequently performed poorly during learning and memory tests. Additionally the rats developed more proteins associated with stress. The researchers believe that over a long period of time low vitamin D levels could lead to cognitive decline.
It is the elderly who are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency since they are less likely to venture outside. Butterfield said “adequate vitamin D levels are necessary to prevent free radical damage in the brain” therefore he suggests you include: fortified cereals, eggs and oily fish in your diet, as they are high in vitamin D.
However one of the best sources of vitamin D is sunshine. Medics advise around 15 minutes of sun exposure a day. Good advice, but what if you live in England where the forecast for most days is grey skies and rain? Let’s daydream about some of the sunniest places in the world, to artificially increase our vitamin D levels…
Your Next Holiday
Brazil: Host to the World Cup, the Olympics and 300 days of clear sunny skies…where did I put my passport?
California: No wonder so many stars flock to California, it is known for guaranteed summer sunshine.
Perth: Australia’s western city receives 3,200 hours of sunshine a year.
An Exotic Escape
Barbados: One of the Caribbean’s most developed islands where the sun shines all year round, with an average temperature of 30˚c.
Madagascar: A sub-tropical climate framed by golden beaches. What more could you ask for?
Mauritius: Average annual temperatures in the 20’s and picturesque scenery.
Closer to Home
Andalucía, Spain: Spain’s most southern point gets 300 sunny days a year, but moreover Seville has an average of 8 days rain a year! (Very welcome after the floods we’ve had).
Marseille, France: The sunniest French city with 2,800 hours of sunshine a year.
Sussex: Apparently it is the sunniest place in the UK, not quite as tempting as the other destinations but certainly more accessible.