25 Oct Revealing the Truth Behind Vitamin D
You are probably aware that Vitamin D can help you build and maintain strong bones. But where does Vitamin D come from? What happens to our bodies when we get enough, too little or too much vitamin D? And how does it affect our health?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is naturally available in some foods. It can be added to other foods and is also available as a dietary supplement. Vitamin D can also be produced endogenously when sunlight rays hit the skin triggering its synthesis.
Currently, it is estimated that roughly 50% of people are deficient in vitamin D.
Even in Florida where the sun shines 365 days a year, there is a large population of people who are still deficient in vitamin D. This may be because of the use of sunblock, which prevents your body from naturally producing vitamin D in response to sunlight.
Some of the foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, cheese, spinach, soya beans, white beans, collards, okra, kale among others.
Vitamin D is essential for our wellbeing. It affects the body, brain and the general health in numerous ways as illustrated below:
1. Healthy Bones
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating calcium and phosphorous in the blood. Calcium and phosphorous are extremely important factors in maintaining healthy bones. It enhances the absorption of calcium in the small intestines. Without vitamin D, that calcium would otherwise be excreted through the kidney.
In children, lack of vitamin D can lead to rickets, a disease that is characterized by severely bow-legged appearance. Children lacking vitamin D have softened bones which lead to the bow-legged appearance. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis and osteomalacia (softening of bones). Osteomalacia leads to weak bone density and muscle weakness. Osteoporosis is the most prevalent bone disease among older men and post-menopausal women.
Vitamin D receptors are found all over in the body, including the immune cells. Research studies have found that vitamin D reduces the likelihood of contracting flu and multiple sclerosis. A study showed that children given 1,200 International Units of vitamin D during winter reduced the likelihood of developing influenza A infection by over 40%.
1,25(OH)2D, a by-product from the breakdown of vitamin D enters the muscles and affects the nucleus. In the muscles, vitamin D metabolite enhances the ability of muscles to contract. Muscles functions by contraction and relaxation. Therefore, by enhancing the ability of muscles to contract, vitamin D directly makes the muscle stronger.
Research studies have shown that there exists an inverse relationship between the level of vitamin D in the blood and high blood pressure; the lower the level of vitamin D in the blood the higher the blood pressure. High blood pressure strains and damages the coronary artery which slowly hardens and narrows, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Vitamin D contains a range of anti-inflammatory properties. As such, vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy lungs. The higher the level of vitamin D in the blood the greater the health benefits of the lungs.
Vitamin D is fat-soluble and thus plays an important role in regulating the functioning of the kidney. It also helps in treating kidney disease.
Research indicates that vitamin D plays an important role in mood regulation and reducing depression. On being happy, scientific evidence shows that the lower the levels of vitamin D are in the blood, the less likely you are to feel happy. Rather, you are more likely to feel blue. Incidence of depression has been directly linked to low levels of vitamin D in the body. In a certain study, researchers found that depressed persons who were given vitamin D supplements reported an improvement in their symptoms.
8. Weight Loss
People lacking vitamin D feel hungry all the time no matter how much they eat. This is because vitamin D deficiency interferes with proper functioning of leptin – the appetite hormone. This can easily lead to obesity and consequently heart diseases. When vitamin D level is normal, leptin functions normally, creating a feeling of satiety and hence assisting in weight loss.
Obesity is associated with low levels of vitamin D. It is thought that fats attach themselves onto vitamin D which does not allow them to be released into the bloodstream.
9. Cognitive Function
Several research studies have associated vitamin D deficiency with cognitive impairments in older people. Vitamin D has numerous neuroprotective roles, including assisting the brain in removing beta-amyloid which can result in Alzheimer’s disease.
10. Cancer Prevention
Vitamin D is exceptionally important when it comes to controlling the growth of cells and communication between cells. Research indicates that vitamin D in its active form may curb the progression of cancer by slowing down the development and growth of new blood vessels in cancerous tissues.
Research studies have also shown that there is a relationship between vitamin D levels and the risk of getting breast cancer. In one study, the risk of breast cancer in women with 60 ng/mL or more vitamin D levels showed an 82% lower risk for breast cancer, compared to those with 20 ng/mL vitamin D levels or lower. Other studies show have shown an increased risk of prostate cancer and melanoma associated with low vitamin D levels. Therefore, the higher the level of vitamin D in the blood, the lower the risk of cancers.
11. Healthy pregnancy
Pregnant women with vitamin D shortage are at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia and requiring caesarian section. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with gestational diabetes. It is also important to note that higher levels of vitamin D during pregnancy incr4ease the risk of food allergy in the child in the first two years.
A growing number of studies suggest a link between vitamin D and type 2 diabetes. Research has discovered that people who are deficient in vitamin D may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, sometimes the pancreas does not work properly and struggles to produce sufficient insulin to control blood sugar levels. Scientists have discovered that certain receptors in the pancreas may only switch on when sufficient vitamin D is available.
Vitamin D is one of the most underrated vitamins and partly because it is so misunderstood. I typically test all of my patients for proper vitamin D levels with the goal of improving their deficiencies and getting them to optimal levels. I have witnessed profound transformations in as little as a few weeks while supplementing with vitamin D3. In the past normal levels of vitamin D were considered 30-100, but large amount of studies suggests optimal levels for children and adults to be 60-80.
Since we can naturally produce vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, I recommend getting natural sunlight for about 10-15 minutes per day. Beyond that, I typically recommend supplementing with a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement, preferably with vitamin K2 as well. Vitamin K2 + D3 helps improve your bone health and heart by protecting your arteries from the “hardening” caused by calcification.
Whether you want to boost your weight loss results, improve your mood, boost your immunity, or just feel stronger, I recommend getting your vitamin D levels in check. It can make all the difference.