Recently there has been a lot of talk about the coronavirus and vitamin D. Some researchers cite a recent research article, “The Role of Vitamin D in Suppressing Cytokine Storm in COVID-19 Patients and Associated Mortality,” as well as other evidence showing the various health benefits of Vitamin D, risks of deficiency, and impacts of supplementation for African Americans in particular. The recently published data found that Italy, Spain and France, the countries with the highest mortality rates from coronavirus, also had the lowest average vitamin D levels.
Did you know that your body naturally produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight? That’s the reason why it’s also known as the sunshine vitamin. This is one of the most important vitamins for our body, playing a part in functions such as protection against many illnesses and diseases, and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones.
Getting enough of this vitamin is crucial for your entire health as being deficient means an increased risk of many health conditions.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the power of vitamin D and where to find it other than outside in the sun.
Vitamin D Benefits
The sunshine vitamin is finally getting the attention it deserves. Some of its most important benefits for your health include:
- Supporting the immune, nervous, and brain system
- Promoting healthy teeth and bones
- Supporting cardiovascular and lung function
- Supporting diabetes managements and regulating insulin levels
- Affecting the expression of genes that take part in the development of cancer
Let’s find out more about the role of vitamin D in the human body.
1.Helps Prevent Diseases
In 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study which suggests that vitamin D lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis. Another study published in Circulation shows that this vitamin helps you prevent heart disease.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research which discovered that vitamin D helps protect against the flu virus.
2.Maintains Healthy Bones
The sunshine vitamin is crucial for maintaining phosphorus and regulating calcium levels in the blood – key factors for healthy bones.
Your body needs vitamin D so that your intestines can stimulate and absorb calcium, as well as reclaim calcium that would otherwise be eliminated from your kidneys.
Lack of this vitamin can cause rickets in children, characterized by softening and distortion of bones and causing bow legs. In adults, lack of this vitamin can cause softening of the bones known as osteomalacia, as well as osteoporosis.
According to studies, vitamin D is vital for regulating mood and preventing the development of depression. Researchers noticed these effects after giving vitamin D supplements to people with depression whose symptoms significantly improved after taking the vitamin regularly.
There are even studies which show that lack of vitamin D is more common in people with fibromyalgia who experience depression or anxiety.
4.Aids Weight Loss
Namely, vitamin D supplements can help you lose weight. Studies show that taking vitamin D and calcium supplements every day aids weight loss by suppressing your appetite and preventing you from overeating.
5.Ensures Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnant women with a lack of vitamin D have a higher risk of giving birth preterm and developing preeclampsia. Also, doctors link this deficiency to bacterial vaginosis or gestational diabetes.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Even though the human body can create this vitamin naturally, a deficiency is still possible and quite common.
Some of the most common causes of this deficiency include:
- Skin type – having darker skin means a lower ability of the body to absorb the UV rays from the sun necessary for the production of vitamin D.
- Geographical location – working night shifts, living in areas of high pollution or northern latitudes, or being homebound means a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
- Sunscreen – using a sunscreen with SPF of 30 can interfere with the production of the vitamin in the body by 95%.
- Breastfeeding – babies who breastfeed need to take vitamin D supplements, especially if they are not exposed to enough sunlight or if they have darker skin.
Lack of vitamin D may cause the following symptoms:
- Low mood
- Regular infection or sickness
- Pain in bones and back
- Hair loss
- Impaired wound healing
- Muscle pain
More serious vitamin D deficiency that lasts for longer periods can cause the following conditions:
- Autoimmune problems
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Neurological diseases
- Pregnancy complications
- Colon, prostate, and breast cancer
What Foods Contain Vitamin D?
Not many foods contain this vitamin naturally, so some of them are fortified. In other words, the vitamin is added to certain foods to increase their vitamin D content. These include:
- orange juice (fortified)
- cereal (fortified)
- milk (fortified)
- yogurt (fortified)
- egg yolk
Sometimes, consuming these foods and being outside in the sun is just not enough to get the necessary amounts of vitamin D. In that case, taking vitamin D supplements may be helpful.
Here are the recommended daily intakes of this vitamin expressed in micrograms or international units (one mcg equals 40 IU):
- Infants from 0 to 12 months – 10 mcg (400 IU)
- Children from 1 to 18 years – 15 mcg (600 IU)
- Adults up to 70 years – 15 mcg (600 IU)
- Adults older than 70 years – 20 mcg (800 IU)
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women – 15 mcg (600 IU)
Still, it’s best to consult a doctor or nutritionist about the right dosage of vitamin D for your needs.