RELEVATE Nutrients

Cholecalciferol (D3)

Key Food Groups: Fish

Vitamin D: Role in Brain Health

Vitamin D is a nutrient that plays an important role in memory and cognition.1 We know it is brain relevant because of the strong presence of Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) located throughout the central nervous system, especially in areas of the brain responsible for cognition (like the hippocampus, cortex, and substantia nigra).2

Learning and memory depends on the integrity of neurons, especially in the hippocampus. Vitamin D may play a crucial role in the growth, maintenance, and survival of neurons in the hippocampus by enhancing the activity of nerve growth factor (a certain protein important to neural health). In animal and human studies of Alzheimer’s Disease, nerve growth factors are substantially deceased, suggesting an association between low levels of vitamin D and the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.2

Vitamin D also plays a role in anti-inflammatory and antioxidative protective mechanisms in the brain. Studies suggest that vitamin D is related to a decrease in the production of messenger RNA (a precursor molecule) encoding pro-inflammatory factors. This can potentially contribute to a decrease in the amount of brain inflammation.2,3

Intake Deficiency and Relevance

Low vitamin D levels are associated with lower cognitive ability.4,5 Decreased exposure to sunlight and decreased consumption of fish, fruits, and vegetables, are two epidemiological factors that appear to be related to the occurrence of Alzheimer’s Disease.3 Historically, people have relied mainly on sunlight exposure for vitamin D synthesis because only certain foods have substantial amounts of it. The recommended daily allowance is also reflective of this by being lower than the true necessary requirement of vitamin D intake because of the assumption that people get most of their vitamin D from sunlight exposure.6 This is why vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in older adults (up to 90%),7 who have both lower intake and less exposure to sunlight.8 Adequate supplementation of vitamin D may be key to keeping an appropriate level in the serum9 and in decreasing risk of cognitive decline and brain diseases.4,10

RELEVATE’s Form of Vitamin D

Cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) is an active form of vitamin D provided in RELEVATE. D3 is naturally found in fish, meats, and other animal products in the diet, and it is more efficient at restoring vitamin D levels after deficiency than other forms, like vitamin D2.11

Concluding Thoughts to Consider

Research shows promising results in the use of vitamin D supplementation and associated decrease in the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Studies looking at Alzheimer’s disease risk suggest that vitamin D alone12 or in combination with other agents/nutrients like DHA are correlated with positive results in the protection of neurons against amyloidosis, a neurotoxic protein that builds up in the brain in Alzheimer’s.3 Other studies supports the idea that vitamin D insufficiency results in a higher risk for developing Parkinson’s disease.10 Thus, given such evidence and the likelihood of vitamin D intake inadequacy, this nutrient can be an important lever for many people to protect their brain health.


Cited Research

  1. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements (2018). Available at:
  2. Banerjee, A. et al. Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s Disease: Neurocognition to Therapeutics. Int. J. Alzheimers. Dis. 2015, 1–11 (2015).
  3. Fiala, M. & Mizwicki, M. T. Neuroprotective and immune effects of active forms of vitamin D3 and docosahexaenoic acid in Alzheimer disease patients. Funct. Foods Heal. Dis. 1, 545–554 (2011).
  4. Gold, J., Shoaib, A., Gorthy, G. & Grossberg, G. T. The Role of Vitamin D in Cognitive Disorders in Older Adults. US Neurol. 14, 41–46 (2018).
  5. Annweiler, C. et al. Association of vitamin D deficiency with cognitive impairment in older women. Neurology 74, 27–32 (2010).
  6. Kennel, K. A., Drake, M. T. & Hurley, D. L. Vitamin D deficiency in adults: when to test and how to treat. Mayo Clin. Proc. 85, 752–758 (2010).
  7. Annweiler, C. et al. Higher vitamin D dietary intake is associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease: A 7-year follow-up. Journals Gerontol. – Ser. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 67, 1205–1211 (2012).
  8. Przybelski, R. et al. Rapid correction of low vitamin D status in nursing home residents. Osteoporos. Int. 19, 1621–1628 (2008).
  9. Veugelers, J. P., Pham, T.-M. & Ekwaru, P. J. Optimal Vitamin D Supplementation Doses that Minimize the Risk for Both Low and High Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations in the General Population. Nutrients 7, (2015).
  10. Zhou, Z., Zhou, R., Zhang, Z. & Li, K. The Association Between Vitamin D Status, Vitamin D Supplementation, Sunlight Exposure, and Parkinson’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Med. Sci. Monit. 25, 666–674 (2019).
  11. Stokes, C. S. & Lammert, F. Vitamin D supplementation: less controversy, more guidance needed. F1000Research 5, F1000 Faculty Rev-2017 (2016).
  12. Annweiler, C., Herrmann, F. R., Fantino, B., Brugg, B. & Beauchet, O. Effectiveness of the Combination of Memantine Plus Vitamin D on Cognition in Patients With Alzheimer Disease: A Pre-Post Pilot Study. Cogn. Behav. Neurol. 25, (2012).