11 Reasons to Love Vitamin D

Here’s why you should make sure you’re getting enough of the vital nutrient, vitamin D.

| March/April 2015

  • Our bodies can manufacture vitamin D with sun exposure in the spring and summer, but we often lack sufficient sunlight during winter.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Often called the "sunshine vitamin," this essential nutrient can boost immune health, lung function and overall well-being.
    Photo by iStock

Vitamin D has been the “it” vitamin lately, and this time the benefits of this crucial nutrient live up to the hype. While you might know vitamin D is important for keeping our immune systems strong, this vitamin offers a multitude of other health benefits, from reducing risk of obesity to protecting our lung function. Otherwise known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is critical to many of our bodies’ systems, yet with scant sunlight in the northern hemisphere for half of the year and few dietary sources of this vitamin, many of us may not be getting enough. Discover the myriad research-backed reasons you should fall in love with vitamin D.

Vitamin Virtues

1. Prevent Seasonal Flu: Researchers studied the anti-flu effects of vitamin D on 167 school children for four months. They concluded that vitamin D3 supplementation during winter can reduce the incidence of seasonal influenza, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

2. Improve Muscle Function: Research shows a link between vitamin D, muscle function and recovery from daily activities (exercise, in particular). Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to muscle fatigue, while additional research on adolescent girls found that vitamin D supplementation can improve muscle strength.

3. Promote Bone Health: Vitamin D is the key to strong bones, as it promotes calcium absorption in the intestines (the primary location where nutrients are absorbed) and ensures proper bone mineralization, according to a 2011 study. Without vitamin D, our bodies can only absorb 10 to 15 percent of dietary calcium. When vitamin D is added, the percentage increases to 30 to 40 percent.

4. Reduce Heart Disease Risk: In a study of 1,739 people, researchers found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, according to the journal Circulation.

5. Reduce Risk of Multiple Sclerosis: A study found a connection between blood levels of vitamin D and the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Interestingly, researchers found no significant association between MS and vitamin D levels among black and Hispanic people tested, but found a significantly decreased risk of MS in white people with high levels of the vitamin. This is especially true among individuals younger than 20.

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