Sunshine is the best way to get all the vitamin D you need. UVA rays may tan your skin, but UVB are the ones that allow your body to create vitamin D. Wearing sunscreen, spending too much time indoors and covering up in the winter time severely limits your skin’s exposure to sunlight, meaning that it’s easy to miss out on this crucial vitamin.
While your body can create vitamin D and absorb it from foods, the vitamin actually needs to be processed by your liver and kidneys before it can be used (1). That’s partly because vitamin D isn’t a true vitamin, but a potent neuroregulatory steroidal hormone (2).
Vitamin D Deficiency Is Deadly
Harvard University estimates that roughly 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, leading to easily avoidable health problems.
Vitamin D is essential for living a long, healthy life.
Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Ph.D., Professor of Internal Medicine and Transitional Science at the Wake Forest School of Medicine tested the blood of 2,638 Caucasians and African-Americans aged 70-79 years after they fasted for 12-hours. They then contacted the participants every six months for updates on their health and wellbeing.
Dr. Kritchevsky explains: “We observed vitamin D insufficiency (defined as blood levels <20 ng/ml), in one third of our study participants. This was associated with nearly a 50 percent increase in the mortality rate in older adults…Our findings suggest that low levels of vitamin D may be a substantial public health concern for our nation’s older adults.” (3)
Vitamin D Benefits
There are currently 33,800 medical papers with vitamin D in the title or abstract. So what’s all the fuss about (4)?
For one, the vitamin is known to improve inflammation, benefit people suffering from type 1 & 2 diabetes, prevent heart attack and stroke, boost brain health and cognition, and prevent infections.
1. Vitamin D And Depression
Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for depression and major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns, since people tend to get affected by the blues as the days get shorter (5). The phenomenon is referred to as SAD (seasonal affective disorder) (6).
“A range of factors appear to increase the risk for the development of depression, and seem to be associated with systemic inflammation; these include psychosocial stressors, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, altered gut permeability, atopy, dental cares, sleep and vitamin D deficiency,” writes researchers in a 2013 BMC article (7).
A Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study observed how vitamin D supplementation affected women who suffered from both type 2 diabetes and depression.
Psych central reports “At the beginning of the study, 61 percent of women reported neuropathic pain, such as shooting or burning pain in their legs and feet, and 74 percent had sensory pain, such as numbness and tingling in their hands, fingers and legs.
During the course of the study, the participants took a 50,000 IU vitamin D2 supplement every week for 6 months. By the end of the study, the women’s depression levels had significantly improved following the supplementation.
Furthermore, participants who suffered from neuropathic and/or sensory pain at the beginning of the study reported that these symptoms decreased at 3 and 6 months following vitamin D2 supplementation.”(9)
Studies have found that patients suffering from Crohn’s have low serum levels of vitamin D. Scientists have also confirmed that vitamin D can affect genetic expression associated with Crohn’s disease, meaning that if the disease runs in your family, you can protect yourself by getting your daily dose of the vitamin (11).
4. Beats Breast Cancer
According to Science World Report “Research conducted by the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Neb, which analyzed menopausal women from rural eastern Nebraska for over four years, revealed that taking vitamin D supplements along with calcium cut about 60 percent risk of cancer, including breast, lung and colon cancer”(12,13)
And there’s more: a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that getting enough vitamin D can result in a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer (14).
Further, a research published in the International Journal of Cancer found that a mere 10 ng/ml increase in serum vitamin D levels resulted in a 15 percent reduction in colorectal cancer incidence and 11 percent reduction in breast cancer incidence (15).
Plus, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that 4 years after cancer treatment, women who took 1,100 IU vitamin D and 1,450 mg calcium per day had a 77% higher incidence of cancer-free survival (16).
Considering that vitamin D also protects against multiple sclerosis and improves fertility, it’s high time you enjoy a bit of sun (17).