If you're looking to improve your health, you should know about the benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D comes from getting adequate sunlight and certain foods, and it assists with the absorption of calcium, inhibits the growth of some cancers, and performs many other important functions.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
This important nutrient is crucial in keeping your body functioning properly. Without enough vitamin D, you can get very sick.
According to Medical News Today, Vitamin D plays a role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It allows the body to use these minerals as needed in order to keep bones strong and healthy.
Lower Blood Pressure
Vitamin D and its relation to calcium and stronger bones seem to take the spotlight when it comes to the benefits of the vitamin. However, there are several other perks to making sure you're getting enough D, including lowered blood pressure. Web MD cites a study in which participants' vitamin D level was raised and their high blood pressure dropped to a more normal range. The theory behind the results of the study is that vitamin D decreased a hormone called renin in the body. Renin could have an effect on hypertension.
Lowered Risk Colon Cancer
A study at Medical News Today showed that, regardless of nutritional levels, cancer patients often showed a deficiency in vitamin D. In 1980, a Johns Hopkins study found that people who live in sunny areas are statistically less likely to develop colon cancer than people who lived in less sunny areas. More recently, several studies by the same group have found that men and women with high levels of this nutrient circulating in their system were 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer as peers who have less vitamin D in their bloodstream.
Less Likelihood of Developing Other Cancers
Vitamin D might actually help prevent some cancers, too. WebMD also lists other cancers that are less likely to develop in those with sufficient levels of vitamin D: breast, prostate, ovarian, esophageal, and cancers of the lymphatic system. Vitamin D could play a suit of armor role in the face of low-level radiation, acting as a defense against the effects of radiation, including cancer, by keeping damaged cells from progressing and keeping DNA damage at bay. The same scientists from the Johns Hopkins study found that in areas where air pollution blocked the levels of sunlight that help your body synthesize vitamin D, people were more likely to die of colon and breast cancers. The researchers performing the study believe that vitamin D was a major factor in both cases.
Lowered Risk of Osteoporosis
Vitamin D supports healthy bones by helping your small intestines to absorb calcium more effectively. This lowers the chances of developing osteoporosis, which also prevents additional injuries due to falls that were caused by weakened bones. A vitamin D supplement is recommended for older adults who could be at risk for falls, according to the American Geriatrics Society.
Reduced Risk of Rickets
Rickets is a disorder involving soft and weak bones due to vitamin and mineral deficiency. Vitamin D plays an important role in preventing rickets in babies and children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Lower Risk of Osteomalacia
The vitamin is also useful in keeping osteomalacia, or "soft bones," at bay. It's even used in treating the condition.
Lower Risk of Mulitple Sclerosis
According to WebMD, high doses of vitamin D help keep MS patients from relapsing. In the study mentioned, patients who took high levels of vitamin D saw 41 percent less relapses than in the previous year.
Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes occurences tend to happen more often in countries with less sunlight, an observation which led to the idea that vitamin D, or a lack thereof, could be related to the disease. This theory has not yet been proven, but findings were strong enough to lead professionals in the field to recommend vitamin D supplements for babies and children.
Regulated Immune System
Vitamin D plays a major role in regulating the immune system, according to the National Library of Medicine. It can slow down the release of the inflammatory IL-17, which contributes to allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune disease.
Reaping the Benefits
Getting enough vitamin D is important for a number of reasons. Be sure to get adequate amounts of sunlight and eat vitamin D rich foods like salmon, mackerel, eggs, cod liver oil, vitamin D fortified milk, or enriched breakfast cereals. You can also take a carefully selected supplement (you'll need D2 and D3 for optimal health, and most supplements provide one or the other). No one can be 100 percent sure that they won't ever develop cancer, osteoporosis, or any of the other diseases vitamin D has been shown to help prevent. However, armed with the knowledge of the benefits of getting sufficient amounts of the vitamin, you can make your best attempt at protecting yourself.