If you live in the northern hemisphere, this is probably your reality: You don’t get enough vitamin D. This is because both Vitamin D supplements and the sun aren’t as popular north of the equator.
And while you might simply brush this vitamin off as another fad, there are many scientifically validated, health benefits linked to adequate vitamin D intake; many of which you’ll find out below. There are also many lies surrounding vitamin D.
Thus, it’s kinda, sorta, VERY important that you are able to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to vitamin D… Your health does lie in the balance.
Thankfully you have this masterpiece. This perfectly written article (by yours truly) is designed for one purpose: to give you a PhD in Vitamin D. After you are done, you’ll easily be able to separate fact from fiction and friend from foe.
1. Vitamin D has been linked to internal cancer prevention
Studies have shown that those with adequate amounts of sun exposure (usually five to ten minutes a day for at least three days a week) are less likely to develop any type of internal cancers (1). This is because the vitamin D that we obtain from sunlight works in our bodies to help regulate calcium flow and build us up from the inside out.
So no, you don’t have to chug that gallon of kale, garlic, and tomato juice down to lower your risk of cancer.
On the flip side, too much sun exposure can have an adverse effect—namely the development of external cancers (such as skin cancer). Because of this, it is important to maintain a proper level of sun exposure (and maybe put on some sunscreen guys).
2. Vitamin D boosts bone health in post menopausal women
It has been shown that vitamin D plays an extensive role in strengthening the bones of postmenopausal women. Studies by major women’s health organizations have provided a link between vitamin D and a reduction in the hip fractures of senior women (2).
This means that vitamin D should play a bigger role in the diet and lifestyle of women who are advancing in age (mom, that means you)—and the earlier one starts, the better.
3. Vitamin D can reduce risk of multiple sclerosis
There are now links between adequate vitamin D sufficiency and a reduction in the likelihood of contracting autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, or MS (3). This is because vitamin D works as a strengthening agent inside our bodies, and helps to maintain our bodies from the cellular level.
This is important for all types of bone health, including when it comes to autoimmune disorders, which can leave individuals paralyzed.
Consider this your doctor’s note to skip work to soak in the sun instead.
4. Vitamin D supplementation can mean less type I AND type II diabetes
Furthermore, there is now evidence to suggest that vitamin D plays a role in the prevention of type one diabetes (4). Diabetes is a growing and serious problem in the United States, especially among individuals with weight issues. Receiving a sufficient amount of vitamin D intake can help you reduce the risk of obtaining type one diabetes.
However, it should not be taken as a cure-all, as the links between vitamin D and diabetes are still not wholly proven. Furthermore, it is too much of a simplification to suggest that adequate levels of vitamin D are all that are required to prevent diabetes. Instead, a whole list of measures should be taken in order to maintain proper health.
5. Vitamin D can prevent a heart attack!
Recent studies are tying vitamin D levels with a reduced likelihood of obtaining cardiovascular disease (5). This means that vitamin D potentially has more health benefits than previously thought. Instead of a one trick pony we have a Swiss Army knife of health!
With these types of studies, however, the extent to which vitamin D plays in the overall protection of our health seems to be growing. Those who wish to prevent future heart disease should—among other things—make sure they take the appropriate steps to receive adequate levels of vitamin D intake.
6. Vitamin D may cure the common cold.
As if all of these major health benefits to adequate vitamin D intake were not enough, studies suggest that there are increasingly more and varied health benefits to vitamin D. One of these is the prevention of viral and bacterial infections that can make us sick and prove seriously damaging to our health, such as coming down with a cold (6).
By working in our bodies on a cellular level, studies suggest, vitamin D helps our immune systems stay strong against external threats. This means that vitamin D should possibly play a larger role in the way we go about preventing common illnesses.
7. Vitamin D crushes cases of bone disease
There has long been an established link between the intake of vitamin D and a reduction of bone disease (7). This is because vitamin D manages the calcium in our bodies that strengthen our bones and allow us to maintain mobility. One of the major benefits to this is the prevention of such painful bone diseases as osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
This information has proven useful in the care and medical treatment of those suffering from bone disease and other aches and pains associated with bone and joint movement. Furthermore, it is now considered that patients suffering from such problems receive adequate vitamin D supplements to improve their overall bone health.
8. Vitamin D improves joint health by reducing Rheumatoid Arthritis too
While on the subject of bone health, it is important to discuss the links between vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating joint disease. Studies have linked an adequate intake of vitamin D with the prevention and reduction of rheumatoid arthritis, particularly in women (8).
This means that vitamin D does more than just strengthen bones. It allows for the prevention of common bone aches that plague millions of Americans. Because of this, more and more people- like me- are turning to vitamin D supplements in order to ensure their future bone health and the prevention of painful bone diseases later in life- especially after spending all day tying!
9. Vitamin D is most extremely important if you’re over 55
Multiple studies have shown that elderly people are much more likely to suffer from bone disease than younger people (9). This is because older people generally do not receive the same amount of sunlight exposure that younger people do and also because the vitamin D requirement goes up as we age.
Because of this, older people are more susceptible to hip fractures, arthritis, and diseases such as osteoporosis. That is why it is recommended that the elderly always receive their proper allotment of vitamin D, as vitamin D deficiency in the elderly can have much more damaging effects that vitamin D deficiency in younger individuals.
The good news is that increasing vitamin D levels is such a simple lifestyle change that ANYONE can do it and feel the benefits no matter if you’re old or young.
10. Vitamin D can boost brain health to prevent dementia
Vitamin D has also been linked to a reduction in the likelihood of obtaining mental illnesses, such as dementia (10). Though the verdict is still out on whether this link is substantial, it does have a bit of credence.
As a result, proper amounts of vitamin D intake should not just be considered a physical necessity. Rather, we should see it as the strengthening of both our bodies and our minds. This could end up paying great dividends for our mental health. And though the link is not completely proven (yet), it is better to be safe than sorry.
11. Vitamin D may boost fertility in women.
As part of the campaign to test the effectiveness of vitamin D in just about every medical area, studies were conducted to see the importance of vitamin D in relation to pregnancy. These studies found there may be a link between vitamin D levels and the likelihood of infertility (11).
This link is potentially ground-breaking, as it is far removed from the traditional realm of what we expect from vitamin D. If there is indeed a true link between a reduction in infertility rates and vitamin D, then we can expect the importance of vitamin D to grow in the coming years.
12. Skin pigmentation can lower vitamin D levels
As mentioned, there are certain demographics that suffer more from vitamin D deficiency. It is important to mention that vitamin D requirements and levels differ by race, and many of those who end up suffering from vitamin D deficiencies are African-American (or elderly) (12). Because of this, it is important to recognize the level of vitamin D you should be taking in. As the intake varies per individual, you may want to check with your doctor and get a professional opinion.
This is especially true if you are suffering from any type of bone disease or other bone-related aches and pains. The importance of awareness in maintaining proper bone health cannot be understated.
13. There are many false health claims surrounding vitamin D
Any article on vitamin D-related health benefits that does not include a disclaimer should be taken with a grain of salt. That is why we wish to tell you that many of the health benefits associated with vitamin D are not yet proven (13).
While many of them are strong suggestions and may truly increase your overall health, it is not set in stone that any of these theories are proven. Because of this, you should not rely on vitamin D to be a cure for all of your bone health issues, and you certainly should not consider it to be a cure for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or infertility.
Vitamin D is a supplement, and so you should use it to supplement your health. Otherwise, if you rely solely on vitamin D to improve your health without improving the way you live you’re essentially applying a fresh coat of paint on a broken down car. Whatever your health goals may be, it would be wise to consult with your physician to see how vitamin D might be helpful for you.
14. Vitamin D keeps your blood pressure low and heart heathy
Keeping the previous information in mind, you may be interested to note that adequate levels of vitamin D intake have been linked to the reduction of blood pressure levels (14). This could have major benefits for those with high blood pressure or the potential to develop high blood pressure. According to the study, the benefits of vitamin D on blood pressure were more felt in women.
This echoes a common trend from many of the facts here that women seem to benefit more from vitamin D intake than men (at least in certain areas).
15. Vitamin D is found outside, NOT on your plate
Most of the vitamin D we intake comes from sunlight. In fact, we barely get even a percentage of our vitamin D from our diets (15). This means that the foods we eat have little impact on the amount of vitamin D were are putting into our bodies.
As a result, we should look into receiving vitamin D supplements if we are lacking in vitamin D, or we should consider increasing our sun exposure (within a reasonable limit, of course).
16. Too much Vitamin D can be lethal (watch out!)
As with many areas of nutritional science, the exact amount of vitamin D we should intake is not yet fully agreed upon. Of course, the true amount of vitamin D we should receive may vary by individual, but as of yet there is no consensus standard that we should follow when it comes to vitamin D intake.
In fact, many of the studies we use to guide our vitamin intake are actually quite dated (16). This is because nutritional science is constantly being updated and revised. Because of this, we should look less to scientific studies and more to our doctors when it comes to our specific vitamin D dosage requirements.
17. Vitamin D is essential for healthy living
According to studies, vitamin D deficiency is actually quite a bit more common than we would like to admit (17). Many of us, especially the elderly, do not get the required amount of sunlight that fosters a healthy vitamin D intake into the body.
As a result of all of this, we suffer from damaging bone diseases or routine aches and pains that leave us in discomfort. This is why every individual is urged to meet with his or her physician and check on their vitamin D levels. This could lead to significant health benefits for those who do.
18. Skyrocket Vitamin D absorption with a glass of fat
Vitamin D is one of 4 fat soluble vitamins, meaning it dissolves in fats (18). Basically, if you put vitamin D in a glass of water, it would all sink to the bottom and not mix in well. On the other hand, if you mixed vitamin D with a glass of olive oil it would easily break down and blend it.
Guess what? This means you want to eat vitamin D during your largest, or fattiest, meal of the day to improve the absorption of vitamin D into your body. Honestly, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much vitamin D you take or how much it can benefit your health if none of it passes into your blood stream!
19. The Goldilocks Effect of Vitamin D on muscle mass…
The good news is that vitamin D is seen to increase BOTH muscle mass and strength more than a placebo in 12 weeks of exercise for women over 45 (19). So, if you’re low in vitamin D (which is below 20 ng/dL of vitamin D in your blood) you should definitely supplement.
The reversal is that vitamin D has a U-shaped curve. While having too little vitamin D leaves you at risk for all sorts of health issues, which we’ve covered above, having too much vitamin D can lead to issues as well!
For example, another study looked at strength training in women over 45 and save that strength decreased significantly compared to the placebo group (20). Overall, it is essential to know what level your vitamin D is at and understand if you need to supplement or hold back.
The tricky part is that everyone is a bit different and an ideal level for you may be higher than the ideal level for your neighbor. Especially if you exercise, have optimal levels of calcium, vitamin K, and magnesium (all factors that support vitamin D).
Instead of simply relying on a number from a test and going from there, I recommend using the numbers to know where to begin AND using your increasing or decreasing strength levels in the gym to let you know if you need more or less vitamin D as a supplement.
20. Feeling blue? Vitamin D may reduce depression.
Low levels of vitamin D are correlated to depression (21). This is a tricky relationship to tease out because the majority of vitamin D comes from sunshine, so it may be that being exposed to less sunshine leads to depression and vitamin D levels are a side effect.
If you have discovered online that vitamin D is a treatment for depression just know that IS NOT true. It can be dangerous to take too much vitamin D. However, exercise is fantastic for combating depression and I highly recommend a daily dose of that.
21. If you have eczema I have good news
Eczema, psoriasis, or dry itchy skin is the worst. It is seen that sunshine can reduce the severity of eczema in children (22). Again, as with depression, there is a link between eczema and low levels of vitamin D.
While the link isn’t firm, it does seem promising. For the moment vitamin D therapy for eczema isn’t established, but getting good ole sun exposure will help dry itchy skin, cool down and feel better. Furthermore it will your skin moisturized to avoid further damage.
While its free to get vitamin D form the sun, more than likely if you live in a place north of the hemisphere, you are deficient (at least for part of the year). Thus its worth your money to invest in a solid vitamin D supplement.
That being said, there are many proposed health benefits to vitamin D intake, but these should not be taken as magical cures for a wide array of health problems. Instead, individuals should be aware of their health and the steps they may be able to take to prevent future health-related issues. Remember: a supplement is supposed to support your health efforts NOT do all the work for you.