Posted in Caregiving

How Vitamin D can protect your Brain

For a lot of us Asians, we want fair, smooth porcelain skin, much like our yummy soft tofu or beancurd puddings that we eat as a staple. A student from an article by Martin (2010), when asked about fairer skin was quoted as saying “If my skin is lighter, I will be happier because I think I look good. It makes my emotion better, yes.” Just walking into Changi airport, I was swamped with numerous skin whitening products. Even when I went to Sephora at ION Orchard, the person at the MAC counter recommended a “brighter” foundation for my tan skin colour. When I am out and about on a hot day with my adorable mum, out pops the umbrella to shield her against the rays of the sun preventing her from getting a T-Shirt tan. Walking along Orchard road, it is no surprise to see umbrellas popping out on a hot day, where the streets are drenched with sunlight. asian-1294263_960_720.png

Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D and we really shouldn’t be straying away from it. A recent study conducted by Duke-NUS Medical school on Chinese elderly in Singapore; found that Vitamin D can help to maintain a healthy brain. Individuals with low Vitamin D levels are 2-3 times more at risk of cognitive impairment.

So what is Vitamin D and where can we get it?

Vitamin D is synthesised when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet or UV rays from the sun. Vitamin D can also be found as a supplement that is available at the chemist,pharmacies and in some foods. However, before we rush to consume copious amounts of vitamin D tablets or get a sunburn, there are some things that we need to consider.

We need to take everything in moderation and too much Vitamin D has potential adverse effects on our body as seen in Table 1 below from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The table also provides some information on the recommended levels of Vitamin D. Get your Vitamin D levels checked out with your local General Practitioner (GP) to find out what your recommended daily allowance should be before starting on supplements.

Table 1: Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] Concentrations and Health* [1]
nmol/L** ng/mL* Health status
<30 <12 Associated with vitamin D deficiency, leading to rickets
in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults
30 to <50 12 to <20 Generally considered inadequate for bone and overall health
in healthy individuals
≥50 ≥20 Generally considered adequate for bone and overall health
in healthy individuals
>125 >50 Emerging evidence links potential adverse effects to such
high levels, particularly >150 nmol/L (>60 ng/mL)

* Serum concentrations of 25(OH)D are reported in both nanomoles
per liter (nmol/L) and nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).
** 1 nmol/L = 0.4 ng/mL

Source: Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.


What are some foods that contain Vitamin D? 

Several food sources of vitamin D are listed in the infographic below.


Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2011. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, link disclaimer.

Please note that Jo does not work or receive any funding from the company or organisation in this article.



Hi, I'm Dr Joanna Sun, Co-author of the Singapore Environmental Assessment Tool. I am very passionate about working towards improving the care of people with dementia, and I hope my work will make a difference.

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