Vitamin D has most commonly been known to play a role in healthy bones and muscles. However, recently this vitamin (that is actually a fat soluble hormone) has been a hot topic among researchers.
50% of children and adults worldwide have insufficient amounts of vitamin D in their bodies.
Vitamin D is found in both animal and plant sources but the most significant source is sun exposure (about 15 minutes per day is necessary). African Americans, others with darker skin, and overweight or obese individuals typically have lower levels of vitamin D. Food sources high in vitamin D include fortified dairy products, fortified breakfast cereals, and fatty fish such as salmon or tuna).
Functions of Vitamin D
- Bone & muscle strength/function: we have long known that vitamin D is associated with healthy bones and muscles.
- Cancer: studies have found an association between low vitamin D levels and cancer, with the strongest correlation seen with colon cancer. Also, some studies have shown vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth.
- Heart disease: lower levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of heart disease. Evidence also suggests that vitamin D plays a role in lowering blood pressure and preventing artery damage.
- Immunity: low vitamin D levels have been associated with the flu and the common cold. Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in fighting infections.
- Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and type 1 diabetes: research has found associations with low levels of vitamin D and the previously mentioned autoimmune diseases
- Depression and cognitive function: low levels of vitamin D have been found to be associated with seasonal affective disorder, depression, and impaired cognitive function.
Bottom line? There is still much research to be done on vitamin D and the association with different diseases…However, taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day certainly cannot hurt and has the possibility to prevent a handful of diseases.
**Helpful tip: take vitamin D supplements with a meal containing fat to increase absorption.
Harvard School of Public Health