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Woman holding her hands to the sky and cupping the sunshine

8 Less Known Benefits Of Vitamin D

It’s called the sunshine vitamin but we should be thinking of Vitamin D as a super-power supplement.

We can get Vitamin D in two ways. 

1. The first way is by making it in our skin.  

UVB  rays from the sun on our bare skin convert cholesterol in the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin, into inactivated vitamin D. Once this molecule passes through the kidneys, it undergoes a chemical reaction which turns it into activated vitamin D.  

2. The second source of vitamin D is from our diet.

The main dietary sources include salmon, sardines, egg yolks, prawns and fortified milk, cereal, yoghurt and orange juice.

Food sources of vitamin D

We’ve known for a long time that Vitamin D is important for maintaining bone health. It helps us to absorb calcium from the food we eat and that calcium in turn is packed into our teeth and skeleton helping them to remain strong. 

But what else does vitamin D do for the body? Extensive research in recent years has found that vitamin D regulates the expression of more than 900 genes involved in a huge variety of physiological processes in the body including brain function, the cardiovascular system, the hormone axis, autoimmune disease and even cancer development. In its active state, it is a powerful cell repair molecule and studies have shown that vitamin D supplements significantly reduce death from ALL causes.

Brain

Starting with the brain, vitamin D helps maintaining the scaffolding that holds our neurons in place. It reduces inflammatory change in the brain and lowers the risk of build of amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s dementia. There is also a very robust evidence indicating the importance of vitamin D in mental health, low levels affect calcium balance in the brain leading to depression and anxiety.

Immunity

Vitamin D has been shown to support the immune system in fighting off bacterial and viral infections. It up-regulates a gene for cathelicidin, a natural broad-spectrum antibiotic and anti-viral which we make in our bodies that fights off common colds and respiratory infections. 

Circulatory System

Vitamin D receptors are expressed throughout our internal plumbing system. Vitamin D helps to keep the muscles of our arteries and veins relaxed. When this doesn’t happen, the vessels constrict, becoming narrower which increases the turbulence of blood flow, leading to raised blood pressure which overtime causes heart disease. 

Blood Sugar

Vitamin D helps to increase sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels. When people are overweight or obese, fat padding around the organs makes the tissues resistance to the effects of insulin, leading to pre-diabetes and diabetes. Vitamin D up-regulates the insulin receptor gene so that our tissues respond to insulin better. 

Illustration of vitamin D supporting the production of red blood cells

Blood Production

Vitamin D has also been shown to support the production of new red blood cells, the oxygen carrying cells in our circulation. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with anaemia, especially the anaemia that is seen in people with chronic illness.

Anti-Ageing

Vitamin D is involved in the regulation of genes that code for ageing of the skin. Low levels are associated with increased skin cell DNA damage leading to wrinkling and sagging. 

Anti-Cancer

Vitamin D has anti-cancer potential. A significant link has been found between vitamin D deficiency and breast, skin, stomach, colon and prostate cancer, with some research recommendations to consider vitamin D therapy as part of the treatment for these types of cancer.

Weight Loss

And finally, there is emerging evidence that vitamin D supplementation may even help with weight loss with some trials looking at including vitamin D supplementation as part of a structured weight loss program.

So if you can’t bathe yourself in sunshine 15 to 20 minutes a day, seriously consider taking a daily supplement.

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