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Vitamin D and it's Role in the Brain and Body

Vitamin D the critical hormone


Vitamin D3 the active form of Vitamin D, also known as cholecalciferol, plays a crucial role in various physiological processes in the body, in this article I want to do a deep dive into the various roles it has in the body and it's benefits and whether or not we should think about supplementing with this all important vitamin (really it's a hormone) 

Here are the top 10 benefits of Vitamin D3 supplementation, along with the importance of taking Vitamin K2 Mk7 alongside it:

  • Enhanced bone health: Vitamin D3 is essential for calcium absorption and utilisation, promoting strong and healthy bones. It helps maintain proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.

 

  • Immune system support: Vitamin D3 plays a critical role in immune function, helping to modulate immune responses and defend against infections. It can enhance the activity of immune cells and support a healthy immune system.

 

  • Improved mood and mental health: Vitamin D3 receptors are found in areas of the brain associated with mood regulation. Adequate levels of Vitamin D3 are linked to improved mood, reduced symptoms of depression, and a lower risk of mental health disorders.

 

  • Cardiovascular health: Vitamin D3 has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure, supports proper heart function, and may help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

 

  • Reduced risk of certain cancers: I have had this in my own mums protocol for her CNS Lymphoma, so I wanted to dive a little deeper on this aspect.

 VITAMIN D3 AND IT'S ROLE IN FIGHTING CANCER

Adequate Vitamin D3 levels have been linked to a lower risk of several types of cancers, including colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Vitamin D3 supports cellular growth regulation and has anti-cancer properties.

Vitamin D has been studied extensively for its potential role in cancer prevention and treatment. Here's how it works and some research findings supporting its anti-cancer effects:

  1. Regulation of cell growth and proliferation: Vitamin D plays a role in regulating cell growth and preventing abnormal cell proliferation, which is crucial in cancer prevention. It can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and promote the differentiation of cells into their mature, specialised forms.

  2. Anti-inflammatory effects: Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to cancer development. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties and helps modulate the immune response, reducing inflammation and potentially inhibiting tumour growth.

  3. Apoptosis induction: Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a natural process that eliminates damaged or abnormal cells. Vitamin D can induce apoptosis in cancer cells, promoting their death and preventing further proliferation.

 

  1. Inhibition of angiogenesis: Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels, which is essential for tumour growth and metastasis. Vitamin D can inhibit angiogenesis, restricting blood supply to tumours and potentially slowing down their progression.

  2. Immune system modulation: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in modulating the immune system. It can enhance the activity of immune cells, such as natural killer (NK) cells and T cells, which are involved in recognizing and destroying cancer cells.

Research findings supporting the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D:

  • A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that colorectal cancer patients with higher levels of vitamin D had significantly better survival outcomes compared to those with lower levels.

  • Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that higher levels of vitamin D were associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

  • A meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that higher vitamin D levels were associated with a decreased risk of developing lung cancer.

  • A study published in PLOS ONE demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation in women with a history of breast cancer led to a reduced risk of cancer recurrence and improved survival rates.

 

Now back to the more general aspects of Vit D

 The next benefit I wanted to mention is enhanced cognitive function:

Vitamin D3 is involved in cognitive processes and brain health. It may help improve cognitive function, memory, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease. I recently did two interviews with expert in Alzheimers Dr Dale Bredesen and Dr Dave Jenkins, be sure to check those out under the podcast tab.

So lets also do a deeper dive here briefly:

Vitamin D receptors (VDRs) are found in various regions of the brain, indicating that vitamin D plays a role in brain function and health. The following are some of the receptors in the brain that use vitamin D:

  1. Hippocampus: The hippocampus is a brain region involved in learning, memory, and cognitive function. It contains VDRs, suggesting that vitamin D may play a role in these processes.

  2. Cerebral cortex: The cerebral cortex is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as attention, perception, and language. VDRs are present in the cerebral cortex, suggesting that vitamin D may have an influence on these functions.

  3. Basal ganglia: The basal ganglia are involved in motor control and coordination. VDRs have been identified in this region, suggesting that vitamin D may play a role in motor function.

  4. Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is a vital region for regulating various bodily functions, including hormone production, body temperature, and appetite. VDRs are present in the hypothalamus, indicating that vitamin D may have an impact on these regulatory processes.

  5. Dopaminergic system: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in reward, motivation, and movement. VDRs are expressed in dopaminergic neurons, suggesting a potential link between vitamin D and the dopaminergic system.

By binding to these receptors, vitamin D can modulate gene expression and influence various processes in the brain. It is believed to have neuroprotective effects, promote neuroplasticity, and support overall brain health.

  • Improved insulin sensitivity: Vitamin D3 plays a role in insulin regulation and glucose metabolism. Adequate levels of Vitamin D3 are associated with improved insulin sensitivity and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Vitamin D3 exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, helping to regulate the body's inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation is linked to various chronic diseases, and Vitamin D3 may help reduce inflammation and its associated risks.

  • Enhanced calcium metabolism: Vitamin D3 supports proper calcium metabolism, ensuring calcium is efficiently utilized in the body. When taking Vitamin D3, it is important to also supplement with Vitamin K2 Mk7. Vitamin K2 directs calcium to the bones and teeth while preventing it from accumulating in the arteries and soft tissues.

  • Overall health and well-being: Adequate levels of Vitamin D3 contribute to overall health and well-being. It supports optimal body functions, promotes healthy cell growth and differentiation, and is essential for numerous physiological processes.

 

When taking Vitamin D3, it is highly recommended to also supplement with Vitamin K2 Mk7.

There is also MK4 so let me dive deeper here into the differences between MK4 and Mk7

MK4 (menaquinone-4) and MK7 (menaquinone-7) are different forms of vitamin K2, which is an essential nutrient for bone and cardiovascular health. The main difference between MK4 and MK7 lies in their chemical structure and bioavailability.

  • Chemical Structure: MK4 contains a four-carbon side chain, while MK7 has a longer side chain with seven carbons. This structural difference affects their properties and how they are metabolized in the body.

  • Source: MK4 is mainly found in animal-based foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. On the other hand, MK7 is primarily derived from fermented foods, especially natto, a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans.

  • Bioavailability: MK4 has a shorter half-life in the body compared to MK7. This means that MK4 is rapidly metabolized and cleared from the bloodstream, requiring more frequent dosing to maintain adequate levels. MK7, with its longer half-life, has better bioavailability and can remain in the bloodstream for a more extended period, allowing for less frequent dosing.

  • Tissue Distribution: MK4 is preferentially taken up by tissues outside the liver, such as the brain, pancreas, and arterial walls. In contrast, MK7 has a more prolonged circulation in the bloodstream and can be taken up by various tissues, including the liver.

  • Function: Both MK4 and MK7 play crucial roles in activating proteins involved in calcium metabolism and bone health. However, MK7 has been shown to have a stronger effect on activating osteocalcin, a protein involved in bone mineralization. MK7 has also been studied for its potential cardiovascular benefits, such as reducing arterial calcification.

When it comes to supplementation, MK7 is often preferred due to its longer half-life and better bioavailability. It allows for convenient once-daily dosing compared to the multiple doses required for MK4.

 Vitamin K2  MK7 works synergistically with Vitamin D3 to ensure proper calcium utilisation, preventing calcium imbalances and promoting overall health.

 Vitamin K2 helps direct calcium to the appropriate places, preventing calcium deposition in arteries and reducing the risk of calcification-related health issues.

I would highly recommend however getting a vitamin D blood test done so you can establish what your base line is before starting any supplementation regime and always see your doctor before starting anything new.

Genetics and Vitamin D

There are also genetic differences between people as to how they activate, transport and can utilise Vitamin D. I do genetic testing and this is just one area of genes we look at.

These genes are involved in various aspects of vitamin D metabolism and function, including its activation, binding to receptors, and degradation. Variations or mutations in these genes can impact vitamin D levels, responsiveness to supplementation, and individual susceptibility to vitamin D-related health conditions.

Genetic testing can provide more personalised insights into the role of these genes in vitamin D metabolism and inform appropriate supplementation and management strategies.

There is the VDR gene which is responsible for binding and interacting with activated vitamin D

then there is the CYP27B1 gene which codes for the enzyme which converts inactive vitamin D into its active form

 Then there is the CYP24A1 gene encodes the enzyme 24-hydroxylase, which is responsible for the degradation and inactivation of active vitamin D.

 As someone of Maori descent I have poor vitamin D genetics and that makes sense, my skin is brown and my ancestors were out all day in the sun so they got enough exposure, now that we are fully covered up for a big part of the year and we are also indoors much more and knowing my own genetics I have to make sure I get Vitamin D as a supplement as well as trying to get skin exposure each day, (not so long that I get a burn mind you) but enough to get more activation.

Click here for our genetic testing programme if you want to find out about this and a ton of other information that can be gleaned from getting your DNA tested 

So that’s it for today, thanks so much for reading and please make sure you subscribe to our youtube channel if you enjoy everything to do with longevity, biohacking, high performance, health optimisation and more and checkout our Podcast “Pushing the Limits” that has been going for over 8 years and more than 300 episodes

You can also buy a high quality, high dosage Vitamin D3 plus K2 (MK7) supplement in our store here