Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has an impact on almost all of our body’s systems. And since it can be found in abundance, you probably wouldn’t imagine that getting enough of it would be much of a problem.
After all, you can find it in breakfast staples like eggs, milk, and orange juice, in certain mushrooms. Fatty fish like salmon, halibut, and herring are also common sources. Your body can even produce its own vitamin D by absorbing sunlight.
But despite having all of those sources at the ready, vitamin D deficiency is a huge problem, with an estimated 1 billion people worldwide not getting enough of the stuff. So there’s about a 1-in-7 chance that you’re coming up short.
And that’s not doing your health any favors. If you’re not getting enough vitamin D, you’re missing out benefits like:
There’s never a wrong time to think about your heart health. And especially with COVID-19 still spreading unchecked, a lot of people are understandably concerned with fortifying their cardiovascular health. Well as it happens, taking in enough vitamin D is an excellent way to shore up a little extra fortitude.
One review of 19 major studies linked adequate vitamin D intake with a reduced risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke. Further research has also suggested a link between healthy vitamin D intake and a reduced risk of developing hypertension, and all of the health problems that come with that.
There is also evidence to suggest that vitamin D can help to protect us against respiratory infections. One review of 25 randomized trials suggested that individuals who took vitamin D supplements may be up to 12% less likely to contract respiratory infections like the cold and flu.
Granted, an accompanying editorial did caution that some of the trials had quirks in their methodology that could potentially skew results. But all the same, the prospect appears promising.
So if you’ve been social distancing, it might be prudent to find a source of vitamin D to replace the sunlight that you’ve been missing out on.
There is some observational evidence to suggest that vitamin D can help regulate insulin levels and stave off the progression of diabetes. This makes sense, as the more we learn about vitamin D’s effects the more we see that it acts a lot like hormones like insulin.
Specifically, some research seems to suggest that vitamin D can increase insulin sensitivity, boost beta-cell function, and reduce inflammation. All three of which are benefits that can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Seasonal affective disorder is often colloquially called seasonal depression. True to its name, it tends to affect individuals in the fall and winter months—when the days grow shorter and sunlight is less abundant.
That correlation is what led researchers to examine the role vitamin D plays in managing seasonal depression. And the preliminary results have been promising.
It’s thought that vitamin D plays a role in serotonin production, one of the main”feel-good” hormones. Sufferers of seasonal depression appear to produce less vitamin D from sunlight overall, and the effect becomes more pronounced when less sunlight is available to begin with. Which is why supplements are being considered as a means to help offset the effects of seasonal depression.
Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of bone fractures and breaks in individuals middle-aged and older. The condition arises when the creation of new bone slows and is outpaced by bone loss. It helps maintain healthy bone production by facilitating the absorption of calcium.
Even if you’re unlikely to develop osteoporosis at your current age, you could still develop osteomalacia, a condition arising specifically from a deficiency. This condition causes a softening of the bones due to a reduced ability to absorb calcium and can leave you more vulnerable to injury.
In addition to preventing bone and cardiovascular diseases, it shows promise in helping to prevent certain cancers.
A review of 63 observational studies suggested that it played a role in preventing breast, colon, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
A subsequent study was unable to replicate those results but did seem to suggest that cancer patients who took vitamin D had a 25% lower death rate than patients who didn’t take supplements.
Either way, whether it be by preventing cancer or merely helping fight it, that preliminary research suggests that it can reduce cancer mortality.
Brain tissue is full of vitamin D receptors, which would seem to suggest that it plays a major role in healthy brain function. That was the rationale when researchers began looking into vitamin D’s effects on dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.
While a cause-effect relationship couldn’t be confirmed, it was discovered that it may help to clear up amyloid plaque, one of the tell-tale signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Our vision tends to decline with age due to macular degeneration, the process by which the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision begins to break down. Most people will eventually experience it in some form, with the extent of your vision loss being determined by your genetics. But while your genes may be out of your control, a healthy vitamin D intake may help forestall the process.
Research has shown that being deficient in vitamin D correlates with a higher rate of age-related macular degeneration. The exact link is unclear, but what is is that avoiding a deficiency appears to help avoid vision loss.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that has a marked impact on multiple bodily systems and functions. Getting enough of it can help reduce your risk of developing multiple diseases and helps promote good bone and joint health.
Of course, it isn’t the only essential nutrient that many of us tend to come up short on. Deficiencies in vital vitamins and minerals are endemic, and even trying our best t can be a challenge to meet our needs through good nutrition alone.
That’s why it’s often prudent to invest in a good multivitamin to help make up those shortcomings. To start reaping the benefits of optimal nutrition, check out our guide on what to look for in a multivitamin.