Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is acquired by exposing the skin to the sun. The vitamin can also be sourced from a few foods such as mushrooms, organ meats, fortified foods, and fatty fish. Technically, vitamin D can be said to be a hormone.
Synthesis by exposure to sunlight is the primary natural source of vitamin D. Vitamin D that is acquired from the diet or through dermal synthesis is usually in its inactive form, and it requires enzymatic activation. The primary circulating form of the vitamin in the body is 25-hdroxyvitamin D.
The active form of vitamin D in the kidneys is 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D. The vitamin is fat-soluble, which means that it binds to lipids and fats that have been ingested and they get absorbed together. Substances that hinder fat absorption from the intestines may also alter the uptake of vitamin D. They may include some drugs and disease conditions.
How Can Vitamin D Benefit You?
Vitamin D plays a significant role in calcium homeostasis and bone metabolism. Vitamin D deficiency may lead to various conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in both children and adults.
The two diseases are now uncommon, however, populations that have little exposure to sunlight may present with the conditions. Other causes of the vitamin deficiency may include lack of vitamin D in fortified foods and malabsorptive syndromes.
According to experts, low availability of foods that can be used as a source of vitamin D and inadequate exposure to sunlight is the cause of vitamin D deficiency among populations in the United States. According to statistics, 41.6 percent of the United States population have insufficient amounts of vitamin D in their blood.
Having sufficient amounts of vitamin D in the blood is linked to many health benefits. Discussed below are 15 evidence-based benefits of having enough vitamin D in the body.
1. Enhances Bone Health
Vitamin D plays a significant role in the development of bones in the body. Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestines into the blood. The two minerals are essential for bone health. Studies have shown that vitamin D helps to build stronger bones by increasing the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the diet.
It helps in the prevention of low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, especially in the older population. Experts explain that a long-term deficiency of vitamin D may lead to osteoporosis.
Sufficient storage levels of the vitamin in the body are necessary for the prevention of osteoporosis in the elderly. Other populations that require adequate storage of vitamin D include ambulatory patients who are unable to exercise, postmenopausal women, and those individuals that are on chronic steroid treatment.
Supplementation of vitamin D and calcium in postmenopausal women has shown a small increase in bone density. The vitamin has been shown to reduce fractures that are common among institutionalized older adults. However, more studies are required to find out the ability of the vitamin to improve fracture healing.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D supplement among individuals whose blood levels falls below 12ng/ml is between 20 and 25 mcg. However, other reports indicate that the dose is too low and persons who are deficient in vitamin D should consider taking doses above 30ng/ml.
2. Lowers Risks Associated With Diabetes
Diabetes refers to a condition that is characterized by the body's inability to process carbohydrates properly. The two primary types of diabetes include diabetes type 1 and 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is mostly observed as onset in children and adolescents and continues throughout their lives.
Type 2 diabetes is primarily diagnosed in older individuals, and it is mostly associated with lifestyle changes. Studies have revealed that vitamin D can help in reducing the risk of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
It is commonly diagnosed in children. It is characterized by an autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Type 1 diabetic patients require regular insulin injection to help keep the blood sugar levels within healthy levels. Genetics play a significant role in the development of type 1 diabetes.
However, other environmental factors such as low vitamin D intake may increase the risk of developing the condition. Research suggests that infants and toddlers who are put on vitamin D supplementation have up to 88 percent lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than children who are not on vitamin D supplementation. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D among infants between 0 and 12 months is 10mcg.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is common among children, teenagers, and adults. The condition develops when the beta cells do not produce adequate insulin or when the body becomes resistant to insulin. The levels of vitamin D that is available in the body plays a significant role in the development of diabetes type 2.
An adequate amount of vitamin D in the body may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by enhancing insulin sensitivity and reducing its resistance by the receptors in the body. Vitamin D has also been shown to improve the performance of the cells that are responsible for the release of insulin.
3. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Studies have shown that vitamin D boosts the health of the heart by reducing the risks of developing cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks. According to one recent survey, men whose vitamin D blood levels fall below 15ng/ml had higher chances of developing a heart attack than those whose levels are above 30ng/ml.
Another study suggested that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in individuals whose blood vitamin D levels is below 15ng/ml is 153 percent higher than those people whose levels is above 15ng/ml. However, many studies have failed to determine a decreased risk among persons who are on vitamin D supplementation.
4. Lowers The Risks That Are Associated With Certain Cancers
Adequate vitamin D levels are critical in the prevention of certain cancers in the body. Studies suggest that individuals with higher amounts of vitamin D in their body have a lower risk of developing particular types of cancer. Recent studies have revealed that adequate amounts of vitamin D may lower the risk of developing bladder cancer by 25 percent.
Maintaining higher blood levels of vitamin D may also help in reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Vitamin D also plays a significant role in slowing down the growth of cancer cells. However, it is not well known if vitamin D supplementation provides anticancer benefits.
Several studies did not show the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation against cancer. More research needs to be done to find out the real potential of vitamin D in the prevention of cancer development.
5. Lowers The Risk Of Premature Death
According to several studies, vitamin helps in prolonging the life of an individual. Studies have shown the link between the levels of vitamin D in the blood and risk of premature death. According to a Cochrane review of 50 randomized controlled studies, individuals who take vitamin D supplements reduced the risk of dying prematurely by six percent.
The study showed that people who get sufficient vitamin D through exposure to sun or diet might reduce the danger of encountering a premature death.
6. Improve Symptoms Associated With Depression
Studies have discovered that sufficient intake of vitamin D has positive effects on depression. However, the exact role of the vitamin in improving depression symptoms are not well understood. One theoretical explanation suggests that vitamin D works by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a hormone that is known to contribute to the feeling of well-being and happiness. According to a review report that was released recently, inadequate vitamin D levels in the body may increase the likelihood of developing depression up to 131 percent. However, no research shows whether vitamin D supplements can help in the prevention of depression.
The effectiveness of the vitamin in lowering symptoms associated with depression depends on the severity of the symptoms. Individuals who present with severe symptoms are more likely to benefit from vitamin D than those with moderate to mild symptoms.
However, more studies need to be carried out to determine the effectiveness of vitamin D supplements in the management of symptoms associated with depression.
7. Increase Muscle Strength
Research has shown the link between vitamin D, muscle growth, and strength in both adults and the older population. A review that was conducted recently looked at the effects of vitamin D on athletic and non-athletic adults.
According to the review, those individuals who were administered with vitamin D encountered an increase in their upper and lower body strength versus those who were not put on the supplements.
Other studies have also been conducted to determine the effect of vitamin D on muscle strength, the risk of falls, and frailty among the older population. Most of the studies found out that vitamin D supplementation increased muscle strength and had fewer falls compared to the placebo.
The daily recommended dose for the elderly ranges between 20 and 25 mcg. The effects of the vitamin have been shown to be high in individuals with low levels of vitamin D from the start.
8. Prevention And Management Of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the spinal cord, the brain, and the optic nerves that innervate the eyes. Studies have shown that adequate intake of vitamin D may help in reducing the risk associated with multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D is thought to lower the danger of developing the autoimmune disease by 62 percent. Individuals who already have the autoimmune condition may be required to maintain high doses of vitamin D to slow down the progress of the autoimmune disorder. However, only a few studies have been conducted among individuals with multiple sclerosis.
9. Lowers Asthmatic Attacks
According to a recent Cochrane review published in the Cochrane Library, intake of vitamin D supplements may reduce asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, and cough. Vitamin D supplements have also been shown to reduce shortness of breath that is common in asthmatic individuals.
According to the review, low vitamin D levels increases asthmatic attacks in children and adults who are asthmatic. There is a growing interest among scientists in the therapeutic potential of vitamin D in the management of asthma. The vitamin has the potential of lowering the risks associated with upper respiratory infections such as the common cold that may cause exacerbation of asthma.
Many studies have been conducted to find out the ability of vitamin D supplements to reduce asthma attacks, improve symptoms, and increase performance of the lungs in asthmatic individuals. The recommended daily dose of vitamin D in the management of asthma ranges between 7.5 to 30 mcg.
10. Helps In The Prevention Of The Common Cold
Evidence shows that vitamin D helps in preventing common cold and flu. According to most studies, vitamin D boosts the immune system’s ability to prevent the occurrence of common colds. Individuals with inadequate blood levels of vitamin D are more vulnerable to common colds and flu.
The vitamin has also been shown to prevent other respiratory infections, including tuberculosis. Experts recommend regular intake of vitamin D to help in the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections.
11. Quick Recovery From Surgery
Adequate blood levels of vitamin D has been shown to improve post-surgery recovery in individuals who have undergone a surgical procedure.
12. Reduction Of Chronic Pain
Individuals suffering from chronic pain have been proven to benefit from the intake of vitamin D. However, not all cases of chronic pain will benefit from the intake of the vitamin.
13. Promotion Of Successful Births
Experts also suggest that vitamin D is beneficial to pregnant mothers. Research has shown that adequate intake of the vitamin during pregnancy helps in improving the unborn baby’s length and weight at birth.
14. Intake Of Vitamin D Protects Against Parkinson’s
According to research, administration of high levels of vitamin D may lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
15. Protection Against Mental Deterioration That Is Age-Related
Vitamin D helps in preventing mental deterioration that is age-related among the older population.
Vitamin D Benefits Review Summary
Vitamin D plays several significant roles in the body. As a result, it is advisable to take adequate amounts of the vitamin for optimal body health. Vitamin D can be sourced from sun exposure as well as foods and supplements. It is important to have your blood levels of vitamin D checked by a doctor on a regular basis to avoid developing disorders that are associated with its deficiency.
The dosage regimen varies according to various factors. It is advisable to discuss with a healthcare provider to determine the dosage regimen that is suitable for you. Individuals who acquire vitamin D through exposure to the sun should avoid excessive exposure to the sun as this may lead to sunburns.