6 Vitamin D Benefits You Didn’t Know About
For a long time it was believed that vitamin D was a nutrient that merely helped with the absorption of calcium in the body and thus contributed to stronger bones. Turns out that Vitamin D does much more than that. Studies have revealed that vitamin D can prevent an impressive number of serious health conditions. Its benefits are so considerable that it’s even called “super vitamin”. Here are the 6 positive effects of Vitamin D that you probably didn’t know about:
1. Vitamin D Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
As our diets become more and more sugar-heavy, cases of diabetes have skyrocketed worldwide. However, taking Vitamin D can lower your blood sugar and even prevent the onset of diabetes. A study published by the Institute of Child Health in the United Kingdom showed that children who were given 2,000 IU of vitamin D each day had a significantly lower chance of developing Type I diabetes than children who did not take the vitamin. Researchers suspect that vitamin D protects the pancreas from damage and thus helps maintain healthy levels of insulin in your body.
2. Vitamin D Reduces the Risk of Depression
There is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that vitamin D deficiency is closely linked to depression. A study of 7,000 people by the Intermountain Medical Center in Utah showed that those with low vitamin D levels were at a heightened risk of developing depression. Another study showed that an intake of 2,800 to 6,000 IU per day for a year reduced depression in obese patients. Further studies are currently underway aiming to better understand the mechanism by which vitamin D can help individuals suffering from depression.
3. Vitamin D Reduces the Risk of Stroke
There are numerous studies that indicate that people with low vitamin D levels in their diet have an elevated risk for stroke. One such study was conducted by the Harvard Medical School and followed 1739 men and women for a period of 5 years. The study found that people with low blood levels of vitamin D had 60% greater probability of suffering a stroke. Other studies, focused on animals, showed that lack of vitamin D also increases the severity of the stroke.
4. Vitamin D Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
The leading cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease. While many people are well aware of the usual risk factors, few are aware of the key role vitamin D can play in the prevention of this condition. Vitamin D helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by protecting against inflammation of the blood vessels, and also by inhibiting calcium build-up. The vitamin helps your body maintain healthy blood pressure. When your organism lacks sufficient levels of vitamin D, this leads to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, due to build-up of cholesterol and other fatty plaques. This condition can, in turn, lead to heart attacks and strokes. A 2008 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) determined that men with vitamin D deficiencies had twice the risk for heart attacks.
5. Vitamin D Reduces the Risk of Many Types of Cancer
Maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D in your blood is associated with a reduced risk of breast, colon, stomach, esophagus, bladder, uterus, and pancreatic cancers. A 2005 study by the Harvard School of Public Health also showed that the vitamin may improve the chances of survival in patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer.
6. Vitamin D Reduces the Risk of Respiratory Infections
Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the immune system. It activates immuno-supportive genes and helps prevent uncomfortable symptoms associated with illness. This results in lower rates of respiratory infection in people with high levels of the vitamin in their blood.
How Can You Get the Vitamin D You Need?
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when your skin is exposed to UV light, which is why vitamin D is also known as “the sunshine vitamin.” However, this method of vitamin D synthesis might not be all that practical for everyone, particularly for those who work inside an office during the day or live in northern regions that get less sunlight. Even people who live in very sunny areas like Florida tend to be vitamin D deficient for at least part of every year.
Some vitamin D can also be obtained through your diet. Certain types of fish, such as tuna, salmon and mackerel can be good sources. Milk, cheese and egg yoke can also provide small amounts of this nutrient.
The most reliable way to increase the vitamin D levels in your bloodstream, however is through regular use of vitamin supplements. You need at least 2000 IU per day and, if your doctor allows you to, you can even try higher doses. However, it is a good idea to get a blood test to determine exactly how much vitamin D you already have in your blood. This will help you determine exactly how much you need to supplement. The optimal level of vitamin D for maintaining good health is between 50 and 80 nanograms per millilitre of blood.
What Does This Mean to You
Scientists are coming to understand that vitamin D deficiencies play a crucial role in the development and outcome of many degenerative conditions. If you haven’t been getting enough vitamin D through direct exposure to sunlight, food or vitamin supplementation, then you need to make elevating your vitamin D levels a priority. Also if you’ve never had your vitamin D blood level checked, make an appointment with your doctor to do so.
Links to Medical Studies Referenced in This Article:
- Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11705562
- Association of vitamin D levels with incident depression among a general cardiovascular population. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20569717
- Vitamin D and cardiovascular disease. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22689009
- Low vitamin d levels predict stroke in patients referred to coronary angiography. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18635847
- 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men. JAMA. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=414285
- Vitamin D is associated with improved survival in early-stage non-small cell lung cancer patients. PubMed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16214909