If you don’t get much exposure to the sun, or live in the Pacific North West like me, then you’re probably part of the estimated 1 billion people or 50% of the world population that has a Vitamin D deficiency. Being Vitamin D deficient can result in abnormalities in calcium, phosphorous, and bone metabolism. So what does Vitamin D actually do? And what are the benefits of taking a Vitamin D supplement?
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Your skin actually synthesizes Vitamin D after exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D regulates a host of different biological functions such as inhibition of cellular proliferation, inducing terminal differentiation, stimulating insulin production and we can’t forget Vitamin D’s most popular benefit and claim to fame, of building strong bones. Without a sufficient amount of Vitamin D, only 10–15% of dietary calcium and about 60% of phosphorus are absorbed. With abnormalities in calcium and phosphorous, bone metabolism is severely affected, resulting in a mineralization defect in the skeleton, or what is more commonly known as rickets. But Vitamin D is not just healthy for your bones. Recent research suggests, that Vitamin D may be vital in preventing a number of series long-term health problems.
What Are The Benefits Of Vitamin D?
1. Vitamin D Decreases Your Risk Of Heart Disease
Several studies have provided clinically significant evidence that Vitamin D has a protective effect on the heart, through the suppression of inflammation directly on the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls [R]. In a study known as the Framingham Heart Study, 1739 participants, with a mean age of 55, and no prior cardiovascular episodes, showed that patients with low Vitamin D (<15ng/mL) had a 60% higher risk of heart disease than those with higher concentrations after a 5 year follow up. In another study that had a pivotal 48-month patient follow up, conducted at Harvard Medical School, evidence suggested that patients with low Vitamin D concentrations (<15ng/mL) were three times more likely to develop serious health problems, including stroke, hypertension, and high blood pressure[R].
2. Vitamin D Helps With Obesity
The benefits of Vitamin D go beyond just bone and heart health. In fact, studies have proven that individuals with low vitamin D concentrations have a direct correlation with obesity. In a 2-year clinical trial, 383 obese women were found to have a positive correlation with increased Vitamin D concentrations, when they achieved higher weight loss. Participants, who remained at baseline, were found to have lower concentrations of Vitamin D and showed a significant Vitamin D deficiency (3). However, despite the research that concludes Vitamin D has a direct relationship with obesity, it's important to remember that Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Dr. JoAnn E. Mason professor of Women's Health at Harvard Medical School, explains that "Obesity, can reduce the amount of vitamin D in the blood because your body stores the vitamin in fat tissue, removing it from the bloodstream, where it would show up on tests. Thus, a low vitamin D level may be a marker for other conditions, but not necessarily a direct cause of disease.
3. Vitamin D Helps With Depression
It’s a proven fact, that without the sun, people tend to be more depressed. With 50% of the world population being Vitamin D deficient, it’s no surprise, that one of the greatest benefits of Vitamin D, is in the ability to help fight depression. Currently, the World Health Organization, states that Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting about 121 million people. [R]
According to randomized, double-blind, controlled study, 441 patients were assigned to one, of three groups; vitamin D (20,000 IU cholecalciferol) was given twice per week, once per week, or not at all (placebo) for one year. All participants also received calcium supplementation (500 mg daily). Findings indicated that for the two groups that received vitamin D, there was a significant improvement in depression (using the Beck Depression Inventory) which was more pronounced in those with higher depression at baseline [R]
4. Vitamin D Helps Build Stronger Bones
The most popular benefit of Vitamin D is in its ability to help build stronger bones. Vitamin D Plays a pivotal role, in the regulation of calcium and the maintenance of phosphorous levels in the blood, which are two crucial processes for strong and healthy bones. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium, which would otherwise be excreted through the kidneys and lead to Vitamin D deficiency potentially causing Osteoporosis.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
The most sensible way to get the daily-recommended value of Vitamin D is to go all natural and get it from the Sun. But, if you don’t have much exposure to sunlight, or you live in the rainy state of Washington, then it’s recommended you supplement anywhere from 600 – 800 IUs of Vitamin D per day. Those with a Vitamin D deficiency should take anywhere from 800-1500 IUs per day.
Supplementation is perhaps the easiest way to get your DRV of Vitamin D, however, you can also obtain a sufficient amount of Vitamin D through the dietary sources below. That being said, Vitamin D3 is one of the only supplements that is generally recommended before food, since it's so hard to get sufficient amounts.
RELATED ARTICLE Vitamin D2 Vs. Vitamin D3: What's The Difference?
Food Sources Of Vitamin D
Salmon, pink, cooked, 3 ounces
Tuna fish, canned in oil, drained, 3 ounces
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 3 ounces
Milk, nonfat, fortified, 8 ounces
Orange juice, fortified, 8 ounces
Egg, whole, cooked, scrambled, 1 large
Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce
Frozen yogurt, flavor other than chocolate, 8 ounces
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.
Do I Need Vitamin D? The Takeaway
Considering half the population is Vitamin D deficient, and with strong evidence supporting Vitamin Ds role in bone health, it's probably a good idea to include a Vitamin D supplement in your daily routine. Recent research indicates that there are some positive connections with Vitamin D and preventing other long-term health conditions. However, more substantial evidence is needed to provide a conclusive answer.
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- Wang TJ, Pencina MJ, Booth SL, Jacques PF, Ingelsson E, Lanier K, Benjamin EJ, D'Agostino RB, Wolf M, Vasan RS Vitamin D deficiency and risk of cardiovascular disease. 2008 Jan 29; 117(4):503-11.
- Forman JP, Giovannucci E, Holmes MD, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, Tworoger SS, Willett WC, Curhan GC Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and risk of incident hypertension. 2007 May; 49(5):1063-9.
- Vanlint, Simon. “Vitamin D and Obesity.” Nutrients3 (2013): 949–956. PMC. Web. 24 Apr. 2018.
- Penckofer, Sue et al. “Vitamin D and Depression: Where Is All the Sunshine?” Issues in mental health nursing6 (2010): 385–393. PMC. Web. 24 Apr. 2018.
- Jorde R, Sneve M, Figenschau Y, Svartberg J, Waterloo KJ Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double-blind trial. Intern Med. 2008 Dec; 264(6):599-609.