You probably already know that vitamin D is important for bone health, but the Benefits of Vitamin D don’t end there.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because of its ability to be absorbed by the body through sunlight, plays an important role in keeping the human body healthy. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, its primary function is to promote calcium absorption, which is required for bone growth and bone remodeling (when more bone tissue is removed and fresh bone tissue develops)
As a result, a lack of vitamin D can result in thin, brittle, or misshapen bones. However, there are multiple benefits of vitamin D, including advantages for both physical and mental health. Here are 9 vitamin D benefits you should be aware of, as well as ways to increase your intake of the vitamin in your daily diet.
Vitamin D Strengthens Your Bones
Vitamin D is well-known for its bone-building and bone-strengthening properties. The calcium that is beneficial for your bones is not capable to do its job without vitamin D. Vitamin D is required for bone growth and to keep bones from becoming brittle. When combined with calcium, it can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease characterized by a decrease in bone density and quality, she adds.
Can Help Strengthen Muscles
Vitamin D, in addition to its bone-building properties, plays an important role in muscle strength. According to Lana Nasrallah, MPH, RD, clinical dietician at UNC Health, “a loss of vitamin D in the body can result in having weak muscles, which increases the chance of falling”. This is especially important for the elderly.
“Vitamin D may greatly boost muscle strength, preventing falls, which are a common cause of significant disability and death in older adults.”
Can Fight Inflammation and Improve the Immune System
As researchers are interested in its potential role in infection outcomes, this role in possibly preventing infections has become a critical concern during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to research, high latitudes and the winter season are risk factors for low vitamin D, increased influenza, and other respiratory illnesses, as well as negative outcomes. Researchers are now seeing a similar pattern with higher mortality rates in COVID-19 infections, though more research is needed to determine whether the link is causal or just coincidental.
Can Help Strengthen Oral Health
Because vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, it is essential for maintaining oral health and lowering the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. According to a 2011 review published in The Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association, while research is limited, there is an “emerging hypothesis” that the vitamin D is beneficial for oral health because of its effect on bones and “ability to perform as an anti-inflammatory agent and activate the production of anti-microbial peptides.”
Can Help Prevent Diabetes
According to Newgent, while studies are inconclusive, vitamin D may be beneficial in preventing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One such study, published in the journal Diabetes Care in 2006, discovered that while vitamin D alone did not effectively lower the risk of blood sugar overabundance, a combined daily intake of >800 IU vitamin D and >1,200 mg calcium can greatly lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D Can Help Treat Hypertension
According to a 2019 review published in the journal Current Protein & Peptide Science, vitamin D may play a role in the treatment of high blood pressure, which is one of the markers of cardiovascular disease. According to the review’s authors, even short-term vitamin D deficiency can directly raise BP [blood pressure] and promote target organ damage. The researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation therapy could be a novel approach to hypertension treatment because of the strong correlation between vitamin D and hypertension.
Vitamin D Can Help You Lose Weight
According to Dr. Boyd, obesity is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levels, so getting more vitamin D may help with weight loss. One 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition discovered that in overweight or obese women with low calcium levels, those who took a daily dose of calcium paired with vitamin D were more successful at losing weight than those who took a placebo supplement, owing to the combination’s “appetite-suppressing effect.”
Vitamin D Can Help Battle Depression
The sun, as well as vitamin D, can improve your mood. Researchers discovered “a significant relationship between depression and vitamin D deficiency,” according to a 2017 review article published in the journal Neuropsychology. While the authors acknowledge that more research is needed to define the exact workings of it—for example, whether low vitamin D levels are a cause or effect of depression—they recommend ““testing for and treating vitamin D imbalance in depressed subjects,” noting that it is “convenient, cost-effective, and it may improve depression outcome.”
Vitamin D May Aid in The Prevention of Certain Cancers
Dr. Boyd cites several studies, the majority of which are cited on the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website, that provides some evidence that vitamin D may have cancer-fighting properties. “There is strong evidence that vitamin D supplementation may help cancer patients,” he says. Colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer are the cancers with the most human data.
The National Cancer Institute specifically mentions a few reasons why researchers are interested in a link between vitamin D and a lower risk of cancer. According to the organization, some research shows that individuals living in southern latitudes, where levels of sunlight exposure are relatively high, have a lower incidence and death rate for certain cancers than those living in northern latitudes. Though more research is needed to find a specific causal or correlational link between more sunlight exposure and a lower incidence and death rate.
According to the NCI, more experimental evidence suggests that vitamin D has several activities that may slow or prevent the growth of cancer cells and tumors in mice, including promoting cellular differentiation, declining cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death (apoptosis), and reducing tumor blood vessel formation (angiogenesis).
How to get more vitamin D
Despite the fact that vitamin D is easily obtained through sunlight, certain foods, and supplementation, many Americans are still deficient—according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of the population had adequate vitamin D, defined by the Institute of Medicine as a serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) value of 50–125 nmol/L.
Because you can’t always tell if you’re deficient in vitamin D on your own, Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, contributing nutrition editor for Health, recommends consulting a medical expert. Ideally, she says, “the best approach is to have your blood vitamin D level tested to see if it is within the adequate range”. This specifies whether a supplement is required to achieve adequate blood vitamin D levels and, if so, the recommended supplemental vitamin D dosage.
According to Newgent, if you are deficient or lacking in vitamin D intake, there are a few key ways to increase your daily dosage, beginning with getting around 20 minutes of sunlight several times a week. According to Dr. Boyd, the main cause of vitamin D deficiency is insufficient sunlight exposure, which is becoming more common in modern life. However, even if you’re getting vitamin D, you should still wear sunscreen whenever you go outside.
Aside from the sun, you can get extra vitamin D from a few foods, such as fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines) and mushrooms (some of which are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light to boost vitamin D levels).
Vitamin D can also be added to milk, orange juice, yogurt, and breakfast cereals. Of course, if your doctor believes it is necessary, you can always take a vitamin D3 supplement to the benefits of vitamin D. Many doctors now believe that a daily dose of 1000-2000 IU of D3 is safe and sufficient for most adults. Because vitamin A is fat-soluble, it is best to take it with your largest meal of the day, which should also contain fat, to ensure maximum absorption. But, once again, consult your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements.