Feed Your Brain Checking Vitamin D Levels

Protecting Cognition and Memory

Vitamin D for brain function

One detail Gary’s neuropsychologist brought up was his low vitamin D level. While it may be common knowledge calcium and vitamin D help maintain healthy bones, we had no idea their role in cognitive decline. Studies found patients with a vitamin D deficiency experience faster declines in both episodic memory and executive function. Patients are also seen to underperform on one or more cognitive function tests and have a higher diagnosis rate of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia.

A blood test now gives your health professional a simple yet reliable tool to identify at-risk patients. A vitamin D deficiency can be corrected if found early, with a good chance progression from MCI to dementia will be slowed or avoided.

Natures Vitamin Store

The dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer have us all aware of the importance of regularly wearing sunscreen. However, no one told us that while we practice good skin health, we are also blocking our prime source of vitamin D. If you mix in low absorption from diet sources with seasonal or geographical limitations to sunlight. You may be headed for vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D2 or D3?

Vitamin D as a supplement is available in two formulas. Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) comes from ultraviolet irradiation of the ergosterol in yeast. Vitamin D2 is the most common over-the-counter form offered by retail sources.

In the past, a physician’s first choice might have been ergocalciferol for vitamin D deficiency. But studies1 have proven that Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is more potent, has ais more potent, has a long active life, and is closer to naturally synthesized vitamin D3. Modern formulas come from irradiation of 7-dehydrocholesterol from lanolin and chemical conversion of cholesterol.

Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) are not bioequivalently interchangeable. Research now proves ergocalciferol potency is less than 30% of cholecalciferol and peaks at day three. Vitamin D3 levels will continue to increase past day three and peak at day fourteen. Potency is an important consideration when your goal is to stem the cognitive decline.

What to do if you’re at risk

Gary has been taking a daily dose of 2,000 units of Vitamin D3 since early November 2018. His vitamin D level was rechecked 90 days into the prescription, and he found that it was still at the low end of normal but improving. So his primary care physician increased his dose to 4,000 units daily and suggested taking it with a meal or whole milk. Gary had been taking it in the evening, but since vitamin D is fat-soluble, changing his schedule to mealtime should help his body absorb it.

If you have been diagnosed or are at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment, the best choice would be a visit to your physician. It is possible to overload yourself, so a blood test is a simple and quick means to determine your vitamin D level. It may be time for a discussion about supplementing your intake.

1Vitamin D, cognition, and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Balion C, Griffith LE, Strifler L, Henderson M, Patterson C, Heckman G, Llewellyn DJ, Raina PNeurology. 2012 Sep 25; 79(13):1397-405.

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Rori Daniel

Living With Superficial Siderosis began as a way to keep family and acquaintances updated after my husband Gary was diagnosed with Superficial siderosis in 2014. In 2019, became a partner in the Superficial Siderosis Research Alliance. Together our alliance has expanded into research, advocacy, and patient education. Rori Daniel, Editor,


  1. Positive results! Feedback is so important no matter if it’s positive or negative. This is a way to learn what will work.

  2. My Vitamin D had been hovering around the low end of the range (30+/-) for a couple of years. I’ve been taking a good quality D3 supplement for a few months now with positive results. My holistic health provider suggested 4,000-6,000 IU daily. I just weigh 160# so I opted for 4,000 IU daily. One 2,000 IU capsule twice daily with a meal. So far so good as my D level continues to rise.

    I also supplement with Magnesium (Malate) for maximum vitamin D absorption. I try to get around 600 mg. daily.

    “Supplement with Magnesium- Magnesium is a crucial cofactor for the enzymes that convert vitamin D to it’s hormonally active form, calcitriol. When vitamin D is consumed in an individual who is low in magnesium, it cannot be properly used by the cells. Not only will vitamin D deficiency remain completely unchanged, but the metabolic work from this thwarted reaction drains magnesium from the muscles. This often results in symptoms such as leg cramps, restless legs and twitching. Experts explain that supplementing with 400-900 mg of transdermal magnesium in tandem with increasing vitamin D is crucial to successfully balancing deficiencies.”

    1. Update on my vitamin D levels:
      Back in January it was revealed that my vitamin D level was only 26, well below the recommended range of 30-100. I decided to adjust my nutritional regimen by adding 4,000 IU of D3 daily through oral supplementation. Since January I have been taking 2,000 IU of D3 twice daily, each time directly after a small meal containing some healthy fat. I also take a magnesium (citrate) oral supplement at the same time to help with maximum absorption of the D. Late last month (March) my follow-up lab work revealed my vitamin D level had increased to 46. That’s a 44% increase in just 3 months. Needless to say, I’m now a firm believer in supplementing with vitamin D3 along with additional sensible/healthy lifestyle choices. For me that means a healthy, whole-food rich diet, moderate cardio exercise 4 or 5 times a week (stationary bike), enjoying some time in the sunny outdoors a few times a week (walking as best I can, or just sitting and breathing), and focusing on the the things I am thankful for. The biggest benefits I have noticed along with my higher vitamin D levels are increased overall energy levels, faster wound healing, and a general heightened sense of well being. It’s nice having something positive to experience in the midst of this crazy world we call living with SS.

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