The benefits of vitamin D have long been reported, but are you getting enough of this nutrient in your daily diet for optimal health and wellness? Whether you opt for a daily dose of sunshine, a supplement, or fortified foods, getting enough vitamin D is vital when it comes to keeping your bones strong and your immune system firing on all cylinders.
Vitamin D It is a nutrient with abundant benefits for our physical and mental health. However, very few foods naturally contain vitamin D other than fortified foods and beverages such as milk, breakfast cereals, yogurts, and orange juice. The best food sources of vitamin d they are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and fish liver oils, while eggs, cheese and mushrooms contain small amounts.
Our bodies also make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. But as we all know, it’s important to wear sunscreen and stay in the shade to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Older people and people with dark skin have a hard time making enough vitamin D in sunlight. So how can we ensure we get enough of this vital nutrient?
One of the easiest ways to get enough vitamin D in our daily diet is through best vitamin d supplements, available in capsules, sprays and chewables. Be sure to check what vitamin D levels your National Institutes of Health (opens in a new tab) recommended, depending on your age.
What are the benefits of vitamin D?
According to Rahaf Al Bochi, a registered nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (opens in a new tab), vitamin D has several benefits. “Vitamin D helps absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are important for healthy bones and teeth,” he says. “Vitamin D also plays a role in preventing diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetesreducing the risk of depression.
Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LDN
Al Bochi is a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She practices through an intuitive eating approach and specializes in the Mediterranean eating pattern. Al Bochi is a member of the Academy’s Nutrition Entrepreneurs dietary practice group and is a graduate of Ryerson University.
We’ve delved into some of these key benefits, along with others, to discover what this important nutrient can do for our physical and mental well-being.
1. Supports the immune system
Vitamin D is already known to help our immune systems resist invading bacteria and viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in a new tab) (CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION). But the recent Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how powerful vitamin D can be in supporting our immune systems against more serious illnesses.
A review published in 2022 (opens in a new tab) on the role vitamin D plays in fighting covid-19 found that low levels of vitamin D can increase the risk of infection and can also increase its severity. The researchers concluded that vitamin D supplementation could protect people from respiratory diseases and prevent them from worsening in severity, thereby reducing the risk of death.
2. Build strong bones and teeth
Vitamin D is vital for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones and teeth. It does this by promoting the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the intestine, which helps bones to mineralize, increasing strength and hardness.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to tooth loss and weak, brittle bones. It can even cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in older adults. With more than 53 million adults (opens in a new tab) in the US at risk of developing osteoporosis, vitamin D could be a powerful tool for improving bone health.
3. Supports a healthy heart
Vitamin D helps regulate heart function and lowers blood pressure, while vitamin D deficiency is associated with heart problems, stiff arteries, and high blood pressure.
Although there is not enough evidence to support the idea that vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), many health experts argue that Reduces cholesterol levels in the blood (opens in a new tab) Y high blood pressure (opens in a new tab)which may contribute to CVD.
4. May prevent type 2 diabetes
Vitamin D can help the body improve its sensitivity to insulin, which is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This can reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Numerous studies, including one published in the biochemical journal (opens in a new tab)Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes.
5. May inhibit the spread of cancer
According to the NIH (opens in a new tab), vitamin D may inhibit or slow the progression of certain cancerous tumors. This may be due to its anti-inflammatory effect or because it can stop the growth of blood vessels in the tumor.
A 2019 meta-analysis of trials on vitamin D supplementation and cancer incidence and mortality published in Annals of Oncology (opens in a new tab) found that while vitamin D did not reduce cancer incidents, it did significantly reduce cancer deaths as much as 13% (opens in a new tab).
People with cancer should always talk to their oncologist before opting for vitamin A supplementation.
6. May Reduce the Risk of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Many studies over the years, including one published in the journal of Multiple sclerosis and related disorders (opens in a new tab), have shown that people who get more exposure to sunlight and vitamin D from their diet have a reduced risk of developing MS, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. As the NIH (opens in a new tab) notes, people who live in warmer, sunnier countries rarely develop this condition compared to those who live in cooler, cloudier countries.
Some experts suggest that vitamin D supplementation might reduce the risk of developing the disease or improve symptoms associated with MS, according to a 2021 article published in Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine (opens in a new tab) argues However, we need more evidence to be sure of the benefits.
7. May reduce the risk of depression
More evidence is emerging that vitamin D may be an essential tool in supporting mental well-being. In 2020, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in Depression and anxiety (opens in a new tab) compared the effect of a vitamin D supplement and a placebo in thousands of participants with “negative emotions.” The researchers found that vitamin D supplementation improved the mood of patients with major depressive disorder.
However, a 2021 revision in the Journal of Clinical Medicine (opens in a new tab) that looked at vitamin D use in healthy adults found no consistent evidence to support the use of vitamin D for other mental health problems. The researchers also noted that some studies recommended physical activity in addition to supplementation or recommended dietary sources of vitamin D instead.
So while we can cautiously say that vitamin D can have a mood-boosting effect, especially in people with depression, we need more research on how it does this and how it should be combined with other methods to support mental health.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer medical advice.