Vitamin D Can Support The Immune System And Fight Inflammation
Dr. Nasrallah adds that vitamin D can also help build immunity. “It can support the immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses,” she says. In fact, this role in possibly preventing infections has become a critical concern during COVID-19 pandemic, as researchers are interested in its potential role in infection outcomes. “There is particular interest in its role in viral infections such as influenza and coronavirus,” Barry Boyd, MD, RDN, a Yale Medicine hematologist, oncologist, and nutritionist, tells Health. He points to a 2017 BMJ analysis of 25 randomized control trials comparing vitamin D supplements to placebos, which found that vitamin D reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection with either daily or weekly vitamin D supplementation, particularly in individuals who were deficient in it. “Studies indicate that high latitudes and winter season are risk factors for both low vitamin D, increased influenza, and other respiratory illness and adverse outcomes,” he says. “We now are seeing a similar pattern with higher mortality rates in COVID-19 infections,” though more research still needs to be done to determine whether the link is causal or merely a correlation.
Can Vitamin D Give You Energy
Vitamin D is associated with a wide variety of functions, from helping to support your immune system to enhancing your absorption of calcium. However, fatigue remains one of the main symptoms of vitamin D deficiency which begs the question does vitamin D play a role in boosting your energy levels? Today Im here to explore this idea and what you can do to increase your intake.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for our bodies in several ways. First, it helps our intestines to absorb calcium, helps keep our bones healthy, regulates the levels of a hormone called insulin, which helps our cells to get the energy they need from sugar, and supports the functioning of the bodys immune system. Vitamin D is also known to help the body fight against cancer cells and to aid in the proper functioning of the heart and brain. Last, vitamin D also regulates blood pressure. For the rest of this article, we will focus on the role of vitamin D in the human immune system and in helping us get enough calcium.
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Can Taking A Vitamin D Supplement Help You Lose Weight
You might have heard some buzz lately about vitamin D. For one, having too little of the vitamin may affect your mood , according to the Cleveland Clinic. Meanwhile, researchers are studying whether vitamin D may help prevent or manage COVID-19, notes research published in May 2020 in the Irish Medical Journal.
So while there are various health reasons to go outside this summer and get your level of this critical vitamin up, could weight loss also be another incentive?
More studies are needed, but early research suggests promise. Heres what you need to know before popping a supplement to whittle your waistline.
Why Is Vitamin D More Important In Winter
In the winter, humans are exposed to more infections and spend less time outside. Exactly how much vitamin D healthy adults should have is debated. Some authorities recommend from 200 IU per day to 2,000 IU per day. In the U.S., the Institutes of Medicine recommends 600-800 IU per day for adults, while the Endocrine Society states that optimal vitamin D status may require 1500-2,000 IU per day. In the winter, people have a reduced ability to make vitamin D when they go outside, so amounts of at least 600 IU per day of vitamin D from food or supplements would help maintain vitamin D status at summer levels.
But, just like many things, too much vitamin D can be harmful. Vitamin D toxicity does not result from too much sun or food. Because of the risk of skin cancer, dermatologists and other health professionals do not recommend unprotected sun exposure to boost your vitamin D. Instead they suggest supplements. But vitamin D toxicity can occur if an individual takes too many.
The experts that set the national intakes of vitamin D for the U.S. recommend that adult individuals take no more than 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D to avoid toxic side effects. Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium from your diet, but when vitamin D is too high, calcium levels in the blood go up and that can lead to kidney disease.
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Vitamin D Strengthens Your Bones
Vitamin D is famous for its bone-building and strengthening powers. “vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium in your gut, which ultimately allows for normal mineralization of your bones,” Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, tells Health. Basically, the calcium that benefits your bones wouldn’t be able to do its job without vitamin D. “You need vitamin D for bone growthand to prevent bones from becoming brittle.” When teamed with calcium, it can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that signifies that the density and quality of bone are reduced, she adds.
Diets Supplements And Sun: How Should You Take Vitamin D
When looking into the connection between vitamin D and weight loss, researchers often use supplements in their studies, rather than tracking a subjects sun exposure or food.
Thats because pills are standardized and can be given in high doses to quickly up a study participants vitamin D level. For example, a study published in July 2018 in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine gave subjects who were overweight or had obesity 50,000 IU of vitamin D each week for six weeks. Researchers found in this small study that the subjects weight, BMI, waist circumference, and hip circumference all decreased significantly, and their vitamin D levels increased significantly, after taking this high vitamin D supplement regime. However, thats not a safe amount of vitamin D to take for weight loss in the real world.
Although scientists havent done much research on eating vitamin D-rich foods and weight loss, theyre definitely still worth consuming. What we know is that foods high in D tend to be healthy anyways salmon, mackerel, mushrooms, vitamin D-fortified milk, which are part of a healthier diet, versus processed foods so consuming these would likely help with weight loss, says Agarwal.
And while researchers dont typically track sun exposure, getting a little sun the old-fashioned way isnt a bad idea, but its important to not overdose on sun, which can up your risk of skin cancer, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
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How Much Vitamin D Per Day Do I Need
The NHS recommends around 10 micrograms a day.
It is recommended to take supplements containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during autumn and winter, and throughout the year for those who are not often outdoors.
Taking more than 100 micrograms a day could be harmful to your health. This applies to adults, children, the elderly, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.6
Vitamin D May Help Reduce The Risk Of Certain Cancers
Dr. Boyd points to various studiesmost of which are referenced on the National Cancer Institute’s websitethat provide some evidence that vitamin D may have cancer fighting powers. “Evidence is increasing that vitamin D supplementation may improve cancer outcomes,” he explains. The cancers for which the most human data are available are colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.
The NCI specifically calls out a few reasons why researchers are interested in a link between vitamin D and a lowered risk of cancer. The organization points out that some research shows that incidence and death rates for certain cancers were lower among individuals living in southern latitudes, where levels of sunlight exposure are relatively high, than among those living at northern latitudes, though additional research needs to be done to find a specific causal or correlational link between more sunlight exposure and a lower risk of cancer. More experimental evidence, per the NCI, shows, that cancer cells and of tumors in mice, vitamin D has been found to have several activities that might slow or prevent the development of cancer cells and tumors in mice, including promoting cellular differentiation, decreasing cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death , and reducing tumor blood vessel formation .
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How The Body Obtains Vitamin D
Your skin synthesizes vitamin D as a hormone while absorbing the ultraviolet rays of sunlight, and many dieticians encourage getting vitamin D as a nutrient from enriched or fortified foods. Since vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods, some experts recommend obtaining the vitamin from natural supplements.
The risk of skin damage from sun exposure and ozone-layer depletion also causes many people to opt for vitamin-D pills and supplements instead of sunbathing. At the very minimum, most adults need at least 400800 IU of vitamin D each day. An even more popular recommendation is the intake of 1,000 to 2,000 IU every day to remain on the safe side.
Does Vitamin D3 Give You Energy
Increasing vitamin D intake is thought to improve energy. A clinical trial was done examining fatigue levels in patients who were identified as vitamin D deficient. These patients were given vitamin D3 supplementation to increase blood levels of vitamin D, and the results showed a significant improvement in fatigue levels. Scientists have shown this may be due to vitamin Ds effect at the cellular level where it augments mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation in skeletal muscle. This decreases muscle fatigue.
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Where To Get Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin since it is made in the skin after exposure to sun. The same UVB rays that cause a sunburn also make vitamin D. Sunscreen, darker skin pigmentation, clothing and reduced daylight in winter diminish the skins ability to make vitamin D. The people who experience the biggest seasonal swings in vitamin D levels are fair-skinned individuals living in the northern regions of the U.S. and at higher latitudes around the globe where there is very little daylight in winter.
But those most at risk for low vitamin D levels are people of color and people living at higher latitudes. Dark-skinned individuals are more likely than fair-skinned individuals to be low for vitamin D year-round because the darker skin blocks the UVB rays from producing vitamin D. However, even in dark skinned individuals, vitamin D is lowest in the winter.
In the winter, in addition to high vitamin D food, adults should take additional vitamin D from foods and/or supplements to get at least 600 IU per day of vitamin D. People who have dark skin or avoid sunshine should eat more vitamin D year-round.
Those Not Exposed To Sunlight
Limited sunlight exposure can put you at risk. If you are housebound for any reason, if you live in a grey climate, or if you cover your skin for work, lifestyle or religious reasons, your skin might not get enough sunlight to make the vitamin D your body needs.
Remember, your skin needs to be exposed to the sun without sun protection or skin covering it to absorb vitamin D. It is recommended that you look to increase your dietary vitamin D or consider a supplement.
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If You Take Any Group Of Patients With Almost Any Disease Their Vitamin D Levels Will Be Lower Than In A Healthy Individual Ian Reid
Ian Reid, professor in medicine at the University of Auckland, believes that diseases cause low vitamin D levels, as being unwell often leads to spending less time outdoors exposed to sunlight, rather than vice versa. If you take any group of patients with almost any disease, their vitamin D levels will be lower than in a healthy individual. This has led some to hypothesise its low vitamin D developing the disease, but theres no evidence to prove it, he says.
Some experts believe people who are unwell have low vitamin D levels because they spend less time outdoors, not that their low levels cause health problems
Researchers have found that higher vitamin D levels are associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer it plays a role in stemming the formation of new blood vessels and stimulating better communication between cells. Vitamin D also has been found to help maintain normal levels of calcium in the colon, which slows growth of non-cancerous but high-risk cells.
Other studies, including of the link between vitamin D and liver cancer,breast cancer and prostate cancer, suggest there is good reason to think that low vitamin D plays a part in the spread of cancer cells. But taking supplements would then, surely, help stave off cancer and a recent meta-analysis failed to find that supplementation reduced cancer risk.
D for depression
Can A Low Level Of Vitamin D Be A Sign Of Cancer
A low level of vitamin D is not a sign of cancer. Still, cross-sectional studies found an association between low vitamin D levels and certain cancers, especially gastrointestinal-related cancers. More studies are needed on this topic.
Moreover, people who have cancer tend to have worse outcomes if they are low on vitamin D.
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Does Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Hair Loss
Hair loss, known as alopecia, can occur for a multitude of reasons, including genetics, stress, medication, hormone alternations, and possibly, Vitamin D deficiency. But how?
There are three phases of the hair cycle: anagen, catagen, and telogen. The anagen phase is the growth phase where the follicular stem cells proliferate and differentiate into a mature hair follicle. The catagen phase is the transition phase when stimulation of the lower part of the hair follicle ends, and follicle growth stops. Finally, the telogen phase is considered the rest stage, and this lasts until another antigen phase is initiated again.
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In vitro studies have found that Vitamin D receptors are present on the follicular cells in varying degrees throughout the hair cycle, with numbers increasing during the late anagen and catagen phases to promote the progression of the hair cycle. The presence of VDRs on follicular cells suggests that Vitamin D does play a role in hair growth, development, and maintenance.
A growing body of evidence has also demonstrated a link between Vitamin D deficiency and hair loss. For example, a 2017 review found that low Vitamin D levels have been linked to excess hair shedding and alopecia, while a 2016 study found that among younger people who experienced hair loss, there was also a greater Vitamin D deficiency.
How Much Vitamin D Should I Take A Day
Its generally recommended that we all get around 10-15mcg of vitamin D a day but recently Public Health England has stated that, during the winter months when sunlight is in short supply, we may wish to source this from supplements. The problem is that, while 10-15mcg is a good estimate, there will always be some people more at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency than others.
Who could be at risk?
- Those who are sedentary
- Sufferers of digestive issues like IBS
- Obese individuals
- Older adults
- Those on certain medications
In the case of these groups of people, sometimes supplementing will be the best option however, just be mindful when youre looking for a vitamin D supplement. The NHS recommends that you dont exceed 100mcg of vitamin D a day3 but, unfortunately, many high street supplements will dramatically exceed this intake. Try to aim for a low dose of vitamin D thats easily absorbed over high-strength supplements. If you want to learn more about this, please check out my blog Are you getting too much vitamin D?
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Those Over The Age Of 50
If you are over 50, you lose some of your natural ability to produce vitamin D from sun exposure making you one of the most at risk groups. Your kidneys also become less efficient at converting the vitamin, making it important to stay active and spend plenty of time outside in your 50s, 60s, and beyond. Read more about the importance of vitamin D when youre older here.
Can You Rely On A Vitamin D Test Kit
At-home tests are convenient when it is difficult to attend a surgery appointment, but the following should be considered:11
- User error. This is a possibility with at-home tests and can affect results. Make sure you follow guidance closely.
- Understanding results. A test can show you are deficient, but without the support of a nutritionist or doctor it can be difficult to interpret what your results mean for you. For example, in the context of your age, gender and other personal factors. You will also need to seek further advice on the best course of action to take.
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What Are The Possible Complications Of Vitamin D Deficiency
The most serious complications of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Low blood calcium levels .
- Low blood phosphate levels .
- Rickets .
- Osteomalacia .
All of these conditions are treatable. While rickets is a treatable and often curable disease, treating it as soon as possible is important. When not treated, milder cases of rickets can result in long-term bone damage that can keep bones from growing properly. Severe cases that arent treated can lead to seizures, heart damage and death.
The good news is that thanks to vitamin D-fortified infant formula and fortified cows milk, rickets is very uncommon in the United States.