Vitamin D has never had as much attention as it has in the last 18 months. Why are we talking about Vitamin D, and why is this vitamin so important?
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin” Vitamin D is an essential vitamin responsible for numerous body functions, ranging from supporting bone health to regulating the immune system. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D functions more as a hormone, acting as a messenger, controlling and coordinating activities throughout the body.
Vitamin D can be obtained from some foods, but the body can also create its own. Vitamin D is synthesized by the body when UVB rays from the sun are absorbed by the skin. Vitamin D may also be obtained through supplementation if food intake and sun exposure do not provide enough. It is especially important for those who live above the equator to get supplemental Vitamin D during the winter months when days are shorter, and the weather is cooler which limits our exposure to sunlight.
Why is Vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D is integral to many biological functions that affect nearly every bodily system.
- Maintains adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body:
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining strong, healthy bones. Calcium and phosphorus are minerals that help build and maintain strong bones and healthy teeth. These minerals require vitamin D for proper absorption. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and maintain adequate calcium in the blood, which promotes bone mineralization. If vitamin D levels are not sufficient, calcium and phosphorus are released from the bones to help maintain blood calcium levels, contributing to soft, brittle bones.
- Muscle Health
Research shows that 30% of phosphate absorption in the gut is dependent on vitamin D (phosphate allows you to contract your muscles). If phosphate levels are low, you may experience muscle cramping, weakness, and pain.
- Improves Immune Health
The immune system is responsible for defending the body from foreign invaders and is highly influenced by vitamin D status. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased susceptibility to infection. Research has also identified a link between poor vitamin D status and multiple autoimmune diseases, including lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), and rheumatoid arthritis. Several studies have found a correlation between optimal vitamin D levels and a decreased risk of upper respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. As recent studies also suggest, many COVID-19 cases have been attributed to low Vitamin D levels.
- Cardiovascular Health
According to a 2019 peer reviewed study, vitamin D deficiency may raise blood pressure and damage your heart. “A growing body of data suggest that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk in hypertension, even short-term vitamin D deficiency may directly raise BP and promote target organ damage.” Researchers hypothesize that supplementing with vitamin D could help treat hypertension.
- Brain health and cognitive function
Several studies have shown that vitamin D helps with brain function by strengthening neural circuits. Low vitamin D levels have been found in those living with Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s. “Many preclinical studies have supported the hypothesis that vitamin D leads to attentional, behavioral problems and cognitive impairment”. (NCBI)
What Are the Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency?
-poor muscle performance
-slow healing wounds
Sources of Vitamin D
-oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring)
-cod liver oil
People who spend limited time in the sun, don’t consume enough vitamin D-containing foods, or have low blood levels of vitamin D may benefit from a vitamin D supplement. (27) Vitamin D supplements are typically available in various forms, including capsules, chewable tablets, and drops.
Lin, Lin et al. “Vitamin D and Vitamin D Receptor: New Insights in the Treatment of Hypertension.” Current protein & peptide science vol. 20,10 (2019): 984-995. doi:10.2174/1389203720666190807130504
Weir, E Kenneth et al. “Does vitamin D deficiency increase the severity of COVID-19?.” Clinical medicine (London, England) vol. 20,4 (2020): e107-e108. doi:10.7861/clinmed.2020-0301
Rubin R. Sorting Out Whether Vitamin D Deficiency Raises COVID-19 Risk. JAMA. 2021;325(4):329–330. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.24127
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Blog Written by: Kacia Mongeau