Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is an essential nutrient that impacts skeletal structure, immune function, blood pressure, and brain function. Given all these benefits and more, which have been peer reviewed and confirmed by numerous studies, it is sad that about 40 to 80 percent of the American population is deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. Roughly 95 percent of most people’s vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. Nowadays, most people don’t spend enough time in the sun every day. People spend their days inside their homes or offices, failing to get out and absorb sunlight. Limited time in the sun, combined with lack of vitamin D intake through diet, has caused nutritionists to encourage vitamin D supplementation.
What Is Vitamin D?
The body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to the sun. The reason that vitamin D is an essential nutrient is because the human body cannot make it by itself. The body requires sunlight or food to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D differs from other nutrients because it doesn’t behave like other vitamins; rather, it acts like a hormone in the body. Studies show that vitamin D acts as a messenger instead of a participant in metabolism, which affects everything from organ function to weight maintenance.
How Do You Get Enough Vitamin D?
For people between ages 1 to 70, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 600 international units (IU). People over 70 require 800 IU, while infants require 400 IU. It’s not easy to get this much vitamin D from sunlight alone, so supplementation is advised to maintain optimum vitamin D levels. You can take vitamin D-2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol) supplements. Manmade vitamin D is created by irradiating yeast with other molds to yield vitamin D-2, or by irradiating animal oils and cholesterol to yield vitamin D-3. The body prefers vitamin D-3 because that is the type of vitamin D that the body naturally makes when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D-3 is more active than vitamin D-2, and it’s converted 500 times faster than D-2.
Benefits Of Vitamin D
Boosts Weight Loss
Vitamin D supplements can help you on your weight loss journey. One study found that the combination of calcium and vitamin D supplements helped people lose more weight than those who took a placebo supplement. The extra calcium and vitamin D helped suppress the appetite. Another study found that overweight people who took vitamin D supplements decreased risk markers for heart disease.
Helps Improve Bone Health
If you have low vitamin D levels, your bones cannot efficiently absorb calcium. Vitamin D also interacts with other nutrients in the body, including magnesium, vitamin K, and phosphorus. Research proved that vitamin D is partially responsible for maintaining proper phosphorus levels in the blood. When you have low vitamin D levels, you can experience softer bones (osteomalacia) and increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. People who take 800-1,500 IU per day can improve musculoskeletal health, which reduces the rate of fractures in adults over age 65.
Helps Regulate Hormones
As we mentioned earlier, vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body. Being deficient in vitamin D increases your risk of mood disorders, including anxiety, insomnia, depression, and severe mood swings for women during their menstrual cycles. Vitamin D deficiency also interferes with proper estrogen and testosterone production, which can create imbalances that result in a variety of symptoms.
Helps Fight Heart Disease
Many studies have concluded that proper vitamin D levels help maintain blood pressure levels, while reducing inflammation. Several animal studies found that disrupting vitamin D signals contributes to the development of cardiac hypertrophy, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. Since cardiovascular disease is one of the primary causes of death worldwide, these vitamin D findings are extremely important.