Often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced naturally when the body is exposed to sunlight. Your body can also get vitamin D from certain foods and supplements to give your levels a boost. Living in a country where seeing the sunshine can often be a rare occurrence understanding its benefits and determining whether you’re getting enough is essential to your good health.
So, why do we need vitamin D? An important micronutrient vitamin D has several important functions. The most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and facilitating normal immune system function.
But that’s not all, vitamin D can also help:
- Protects against illness
Rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, asthma, osteoporosis – these are just some of the health problems that vitamin D can help prevent or alleviate the symptoms of.
- Support weight loss
There’s been growing evidence that vitamin D can help you lose weight. According to Healthline, this is likely because your daily requirement for vitamin D depends on your body size. Furthermore, certain enzymes are needed to convert vitamin D into its active form, and levels of these enzymes may differ between obese and non-obese individuals. Your levels of vitamin D will also be affected by behaviour. For example, if you’re eating a less healthy and balanced diet you will be less likely to be eating vitamin rich foods.
Your lifestyle will also affect how much exercise you do and how mobile you are determining the amount of sunshine you are exposed to.
- Reduce depression
According to recent research vitamin D has been seen to affect mood and emotional health. It was found that people with low levels of vitamin D were up to 11 times more prone to depression than people with normal levels of the vitamin.
But depression is complex – there are many possible causes, and no one size fits all cure. Vitamin D could brighten your mood and help relieve some of the symptoms as depressed people who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
- Promote healthy bones and teeth
Vitamin D places an important role in the absorption and regulation of calcium and phosphorus, which are vital for healthy bones. It’s important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth.
Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, which leads to a severely bowlegged appearance due to the softening of the bones. In adults, vitamin D deficiency manifests as osteomalacia, or softening of the bones. Osteomalacia results in poor bone density and muscular weakness.
- Regulate insulin levels and support diabetes management
A common disease in both adults and children, diabetes Vitamin D is believed to help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin – the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels – and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
- Support lung function and cardiovascular health
Vitamin D may also play an important role in respiratory health through its effects on lung development and structure, respiratory muscle strength, inflammation and immune response to respiratory pathogens. Researchers found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis, and respiratory symptoms common to these conditions including wheezing and chest tightness.
A growing number of studies also point to vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), strokes, and the conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Reduce the risk of some cancers
“A sose of sunshine exposure could cut the risk of cancer by a fifth,” reports The Daily Telegraph. Vitamin D helps control cell growth, immune function, and inflammation. It performs these functions by regulating genes for cell differentiation, division, and death.Though more research needs to take place. some evidence that vitamin D may have cancer fighting powers. The cancers for which the most human data are available are colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.
- Increase fertility and support a healthy pregnancy
According to a recent study, consuming a vitamiin filled diet is beneficial, but a regular intake of vitamin D is extremely important. Although the data for vitamin D and fertility is not conclusive, several studies have found that vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/mL or higher are associated with higher pregnancy rates.
- Support the immune system
Vitamin C is often credited with supporting the immune system, but vitamin D also plays an important role. Your immune system is there to help you combat infectious bacteria and it is important to maintain your immune system to avoid viral infections.
One of the main functions of vitamin D is to help activate T cells, aka the “killer cells” in the body. T cells actually detect and destroy foreign pathogens — like viruses.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with a higher susceptibility to infections like flu.
- Improves muscle function
A new study suggests that vitamin D may also improve muscle strength. A study led by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom has found that increased levels of vitamin D may be vital for the performance of muscle tissues. This vitamin is essential for the bones to properly absorb calcium and to reduce the formation of body fat.
We’ve seen some of the benefits of vitamin D, but it’s also important to be aware that too much vitamin D can affect your health. Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
As we enter autumn and the days start to get shorter and the weather turns now is a good time to have your vitamin D levels checked by a simple blood test.