Being a sun worshipper could make you cleverer in later life and ward off dementia
Researchers found that increased levels of vitamin D, obtained from exposure to sun or eating oily fish, could help keep our brains in top condition as we age.
The findings suggest that retirement to warmer climes or taking dietary supplements could boost your brain’s ability to stay active later in life.
Scientists at the University of Manchester discovered that higher levels of vitamin D are linked with improved mental ability in middle-aged and older men.
The study, published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, compared the brain agility of 3,133 men aged 40 to 79 at eight test centres across Europe.
They were tested for memory and speed of recollection as well as for mood and physical activity levels, all of which add up to overall mental agility.
Blood samples were then taken to measure blood levels of vitamin D.
The researchers found that men with higher levels of vitamin D performed consistently better than those with lower levels.
Dr David Lee, lead researcher from Manchester’s School of Translational Medicine, said: “Previous studies exploring the relationship between vitamin D and cognitive performance in adults have produced inconsistent findings.
“But we observed a significant, independent association between a slower information processing speed and lower levels of vitamin D.
“The main strengths of our study are that it is based on a large population sample and took into account potential interfering factors, such as depression, season and levels of physical activity.
“Interestingly, the association between increased vitamin D and faster information processing was more significant in men aged over 60 years, although the biological reasons for this remain unclear.”
Vitamin D, produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight, is also found in certain foods such as oily fish. It helps cells absorb calcium and is important for bone health.
The researchers do not know exactly how vitamin D and mental agility may be connected but said possible suggestions include the vitamin’s role in the protection of neurons in the brain.
But they stressed their findings should not spur people to bask in the sun, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.