Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is one that most people are currently not getting enough of in their day-to-day diet plan. Vitamin D will be produced naturally by the body any time you go out unprotected into direct sunlight. However, due to the risk of developing skin cancer, this is not recommended. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified milk and dairy products, salmon, tuna, and cod liver oil, most of which people will not eat in high enough dosages to meet their daily needs. As such, it’s often recommended that supplementation is pursued. Why is this so important?
Let’s take a look at eight important reasons you need to consider increasing your vitamin D intake and being sure to monitor your status so it’s optimised to around 5000 International Units per day.
Improved Bone Health
When most people think of bone health, they tend to think of calcium. And while calcium is key for strong bones, it goes hand in hand with vitamin D. Those who are low in vitamin D status tend to report far greater occurrences of stress fractures and osteoporosis over their lifetime. Vitamin D works with calcium to increase total bone mineralisation. Without it, the calcium you are taking in is not nearly as effective. This is one reason why milk is often fortified with vitamin D. As it’s a natural source of calcium already, this provides you with the two bone-building nutrients in together.
Enhanced Muscle Strength Output
Strength training is a key part of maintaining a healthy and strong body and vitamin D may just help out with this as well. Vitamin D is essential to maintain strong and proper muscular contractions, so when intakes are low in the diet, it’s quite easy to find yourself feeling weaker during day-to-day activities, as well as in the gym.
Reduced Risk Of Diabetes
Another way that vitamin D can help out is in lowering your risk-factor for diabetes. Studies, such as one published in the Endocrine Reviews noted that vitamin D may play a role in the level of insulin sensitivity in muscle tissues, which is then going to impact how your body handles glucose that’s being ingested. As insulin resistance is a hallmark trait of diabetes, the more insulin sensitive you are, the lower your risk of this condition will be.
By increasing insulin sensitivity in the muscle tissues, this can also increase performance as well by encouraging greater total muscle glycogen storage in the muscle cells after carbohydrates are consumed. Those who are suffering from insulin resistance may also find they fatigue more quickly during exercise due to the fact they are not storing as much muscle glycogen as they ideally should be, which would result in more usable energy for that exercise performance. If you want to take this benefit one step further, be sure to incorporate resistance training into your exercise plan, which also has the benefit of boosting the level of muscle glycogen you can store in the muscle tissues.
Body Composition Management
Body composition management, which is the promotion of lean body weight over fat mass is often thought to be primarily a factor of calorie intake and how you spread your macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) over the course of the day. Now we also know that certain nutrients may also be involved, vitamin D being one of them.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism noted that when subjects were deficient in vitamin D, there was a great infiltration of fat in the muscle tissue, increasing their overall body fat percentages. In contrast, those who consumed adequate amounts of vitamin D per day had learner body compositions and more quality muscle mass tissue. If you are looking to control your body weight, this is favorable news for vitamin D supplementation.
Lower Risk Factor For Cancer
Cancer is obviously one of the most life-threatening conditions one can contract. However, it is also one that we, to some degree, can work to prevent. By taking charge of your nutrition, you can put your best foot forward in preventing the occurrence of all types of cancer in your body. Vitamin D may play a key role.
One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when subjects supplemented with both vitamin D and calcium together, they noted a reduced incident cancer risk for all types of cancer compared to those who were supplementing with just calcium or who didn’t supplement at all.
Vitamin D and calcium supplementation will be especially important for women in their post-menopausal years thanks to the shift in hormones that takes place during this time.
Reduced Feelings Of Depression
Another benefit to increasing your vitamin intake, especially if you are currently carrying excess weight, is reducing feelings of depression. In a study published by the Journal of Complementary Medicine, researchers looked at what impact vitamin D supplementation would have on overweight and obese subjects. It was found there appeared to be a relationship between the two, with those who took the supplements reporting fewer symptoms.
While vitamin D supplementation should never fill in for proper medical treatment and advice, if you are overweight and suffering, it may be a natural remedy to consider adding to any other treatment you are undergoing (after speaking with your doctor first).
Interestingly, being exposed to natural sunlight also tends to have beneficial impacts on those who are suffering from depression, so there may be a further link here. This said, if you are going to use sunlight as a means to help increase your vitamin D intake, be sure that you are avoiding peak hours of daylight when UV rays are strongest and limiting your total exposure to smaller doses throughout the day. It’s also a good idea to speak to your doctor first as well.
Heart Health Benefits
If you want to boost your heart-health, vitamin D can come in helpful as well. In addition to eating a diet lower in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, adding more vitamin D to your day can offer protective benefits, as was noted by a study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Researchers who published their findings also noted that vitamin D can hold promising benefits for the reduced risk of common cancers and diabetes as well, as we noted above.
Those who are deficient in vitamin D tend to show higher incidences of all of these conditions, leading researches to believe that bringing intakes up may have the opposite effect.
There are vitamin D receptors in vascular smooth muscle, endothelium, as well as cardiomyocytes, illustrating the need for vitamin D in the heart.
Increased Brain Health And Function
Finally, the last way that vitamin D can help benefit your health is through improving your overall brain function and processes. Those who are not taking in adequate amounts of vitamin D each day tend to show greater levels of cognitive impairment, especially into their older years. In addition to this, some studies suggest that low levels of vitamin D intake during the very early years of life may predispose someone to experience schizophrenia later on in their adult years, making it very important that mothers do everything they can to ensure their growing babies are getting enough of this nutrient.
So there you have some of the biggest reasons why getting adequate levels of vitamin D into your diet is key for long-term health and well-being. As this is a fat soluble vitamin, do keep in mind that you can get too much of a good thing. If excess is taken in, it will be absorbed in body fat cells, so could become toxic if over-supplementation occurs for an extended period of time. Likewise, given the fact that it is fat soluble, it is absorbed better when eaten with dietary fat, so serving your vitamin D supplements (or rich foods) with some healthy fats will help increase your chances of meeting your daily requirements.
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