It’s no secret that vitamin D is an essential nutrient. It’s found in breakfast staples like eggs, milk, and fortified orange juice, as well as in some mushrooms and fatty fish like halibut, salmon, and herring. Your body can even make it when you spend time in the sun.
But how much do you really know about what vitamin D can, or can’t, do for your health? Read on to find out what we know so far.
- 1 How is vitamin D different from other nutrients?
- 2 How to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D?
- 3 What does the research say about vitamin D?
- 4 What vitamin D can do for your health
- 4.1 Helps prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis
- 4.2 Improve symptoms of seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder)
- 4.3 Protect against respiratory infections
- 4.4 Helps protect against heart disease and stroke
- 4.5 Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
- 4.6 Plays a role in reducing cancer mortality
- 4.7 Helps prevent cognitive decline and dementia
- 4.8 Relieve symptoms of autoimmune diseases
- 5 What Vitamin D Definitely Won’t Do For Your Health
- 6 The Basics About Vitamin D and Your Health
How is vitamin D different from other nutrients?
To better understand vitamin D and the long-standing fascination that scientists have had with its functions, we must first know that not all vitamins and minerals work in the same way in the body. Vitamin D behaves much less like a vitamin and much more like a hormone. This means vitamin D acts as a messenger rather than a participant in metabolism, which can affect everything from weight to organ function.
How to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D?
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) for most people between the ages of 1 and 70. For people over 70, it is 800 IU, and for infants – 400 IU.
But it’s not easy to get this amount of vitamin D from diet and sunlight alone. The average amount of this nutrient that an individual obtains through food and drink rarely exceeds 288 IU per day. Even drinking milk fortified with vitamin D, you’ll only get 100 IU per glass, and the same goes for most plant-based milk alternatives that are fortified with vitamin D.
This is why many people take vitamin D supplements. Ensure a dose of 1,500 to 2,000 IU per day in supplement form to avoid vitamin D deficiency, and 1,000 IU per day for infants and toddlers. children. Yet recommendations vary widely. Keep in mind that you can get too much of a good thing with vitamin D, so keep an upper limit of no more than 4,000 IU per day in supplementation for people over the age of 9 years and 1000-3000 IU for infants and children up to 8 years, depending on age. Doses higher than these increase the risk of death, cancer and cardiovascular events, as well as falls and fractures in the elderly.
What does the research say about vitamin D?
Although research on vitamin D abounds, its effect on human health remains uncertain. This is largely because the majority of vitamin D studies are in animals or have been conducted in small human populations. More importantly, the majority of research on this nutrient is observational, which means that the results do not support a conclusion of a causal relationship between vitamin D and the potential health benefit studied. Studies that produce results of probable causation are conducted with a randomized controlled design, in which researchers eliminate risk of bias and account for potentially conflicting factors. Large randomized controlled trials are considered the gold standard of research, and unfortunately, there haven’t been many of them on vitamin D supplementation and its various possible health benefits.
Given the limitations of the research, here’s an in-depth look at what vitamin D can, can and definitely won’t do for your health.
What vitamin D can do for your health
Helps prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis
It is clear that vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium. If the body does not contain enough vitamin D, the active form of calcium, the hormone calcitriol, will not be sufficient. The absorption of calcium allows the body to maintain sufficient levels of this element as well as phosphate, which both promote the growth and maintenance of healthy and strong bones. That’s why getting enough vitamin D is essential to prevent bone diseases, such as rickets in children, osteomalacia in adults, and osteoporosis in the elderly.
Rickets is a rare disease. It is characterized by soft and weak bones in children and is commonly associated with developing countries, but insufficient vitamin D levels due to lack of sun exposure or poor diet can affect children all over the world, as research shows. Signs and symptoms of rickets include pain in the spine, pelvis, and legs, as well as stunted growth and muscle weakness.
Osteomalacia, on the other hand, refers to softening of the bones due to vitamin D deficiency. It manifests as dull, aching pains. Its signs are dull, aching pains in the legs, hips, pelvis, ribs, and back, although this condition often has no symptoms in its early stages.
Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of broken bones and fractures in the elderly. This bone disease occurs when the cycle of creating new bone and losing old bone is out of balance and the loss of bone is greater than the creation. Postmenopausal women are most at risk of osteoporosis. As with osteomalacia, people with osteoporosis are often asymptomatic when the disease is in its early stages. Later symptoms may include hunched posture, height loss, back pain, and an unexpected and immediate bone fracture.
Improve symptoms of seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder)
Although the potential role of vitamin D in the prevention or management of clinical depression is still unclear due to limited research, researchers believe that a person’s vitamin D level may indeed play a role. in the risk of seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression. People with seasonal affective disorder seem to produce less vitamin D, which can affect the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is the same chemical your brain produces when you go for a long run, eat a piece of chocolate, or hold hands with the person you love. It’s a feel-good hormone. So, when the serotonin level is out of whack, you may get blue or be more at risk of suffering from mood disorders.
Protect against respiratory infections
Increase your vitamin D level if you’re deficient, and you may find that you have fewer respiratory infections (aka colds and flu) than usual. A review of 25 randomized controlled trials involving around 11,300 people suggests that participants who were vitamin D deficient saw a 12% reduction in the risk of respiratory infections after taking a vitamin D supplement, although not all studies haven’t seen a clear benefit from supplementation. The researchers published their findings in February 2017 in the BMJ.
Helps protect against heart disease and stroke
Is vitamin D good for the heart? An analysis of 19 studies linked getting enough vitamin D to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and heart failure. Yet the VITAL study, a large randomized clinical study involving more than 25,000 participants and published in January 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found no reduction in the risk of stroke, heart attack or cardiovascular death. in people who took supplements of 2,000 IU daily.
Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Observational studies in cellular models suggest that vitamin D may help increase insulin sensitivity, stimulate beta cell function and decrease inflammation. All potential benefits for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and helping to manage it, notes an article published in March 2014 in Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America.
Plays a role in reducing cancer mortality
Scientists are increasingly paying attention to the possible role of vitamin D in cancer prevention. A previous review of 63 observational studies that analyzed the potential link between vitamin D and breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer yielded promising results, suggesting that vitamin D could be an easy and inexpensive way to help reduce the risk of cancer. The VITAL study also looked at the effect of vitamin D supplements on cancer. This nutrient was not found to reduce overall cancer risk in participants. However, those who developed cancer had a 25% lower death rate when taking vitamin D.
Helps prevent cognitive decline and dementia
There are vitamin D receptors in brain tissue, suggesting the vitamin may play a role in cognitive function and, potentially, dementia risk. Research may support this notion, with one article suggesting that vitamin D may help clear up amyloid plaque, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia). The authors note that more research is needed to confirm a causal relationship between adequate vitamin D levels and neurodegenerative disease.
Relieve symptoms of autoimmune diseases
Researchers have long been fascinated by the potential effect of vitamin D on autoimmune disorders due to the nutrient’s role in regulating the immune system; But as with most vitamin D research, more study is needed.
What Vitamin D Definitely Won’t Do For Your Health
Now you know that scientists are still exploring how exactly vitamin D affects our bodies and what role it might play in treating and preventing disease. But one thing is certain: Vitamin D is not a panacea, so don’t start taking supplements hoping that all your health problems will go away. No vitamin is capable of doing this.
The Basics About Vitamin D and Your Health
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that can help build bones and keep them strong, while potentially reducing the risk of cancer and death from cancer in some people. However, its other effects need to be studied in more detail before scientists, doctors, and everyone else can make informed decisions about supplementing or increasing dietary intake of this vitamin.
In the meantime, take steps to get the recommended daily amount of this nutrient through diet, supplements, and the sun (keeping in mind the health risks of prolonged exposure to UV rays. If you think you have a vitamin D deficiency, ask your doctor for a blood test to check if your level is sufficient.