Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D1, D2, and D3. Vitamin D has several important functions, and perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and facilitating normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
However it has a few other benefits you may not be aware of.
Vitamin D Boosts Athletic Performance
According to a review of previous studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, vitamin D supplements may help increase muscle strength in athletes, reduce injury, and improve athletic performance. In one study, athletes who received vitamin D supplements increased their upper and lower body strength compared to those receiving a placebo. Another study of vitamin D-deficient athletes found that those receiving 5,000 IU per day increased their vertical jump height compared to those who didn’t receive the vitamin. Among 1,000 Royal Marine recruits in the UK, those with the lowest levels of vitamin D experienced a 60 percent higher incidence of stress fractures than those with the highest levels.
“Vitamin D deficiency commonly affects many people around the world,” said lead study author and orthopedic surgeon Geoffrey D. Abrams, MD, of Stanford University. “With higher serum levels of vitamin D playing a role in muscle strength, injury prevention, and sports performance, it’s essential for individuals to take necessary steps to ensure they’re getting an adequate amount of vitamin D intake.”
Vitamin D May Lower Cardiovascular Death Risk
People who have cardiovascular disease (CVD) can reduce their risk of death by almost a third simply by maintaining normal vitamin D levels. This is the finding of a new study recently published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, and it is the number one killer in the U.S. Heart disease alone is responsible for around 610,000 deaths in the country every year.
Previous research suggests that vitamin D may play an important role in cardiovascular health. A study reported by Medical News Today in 2016, for example, associated low vitamin D levels with greater risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attack, and cardiovascular death. A new study out of Norway further investigated the role that vitamin D levels play in the risk of death from CVD. Researchers analyzed blood samples of 4,114 adults who had suspected angina pectoris, a chest pain that results from coronary heart disease. The subjects were an average age of 62 and they were followed for 12 years. Blood samples were monitored for levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3, or 25(OH)D, which is the primary circulating form of vitamin D. Researchers found that participants with the optimal concentrations were 30 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease. “We discovered,” says lead researcher Prof. Jutta Dierkes, of the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Bergen, “that the right amount of vitamin D reduces the risk of death substantially. However, too much or too little increases the risk.”
Based on these results, Dierkes recommends that all people with CVD have their vitamin D levels measured and monitored. If levels are below normal, vitamin D supplementation might be required. That said, the researchers note that the optimal amount of vitamin D is not the same for everyone. “It depends where you live, and what kind of diet you have,” Prof. Dierkes adds.
Vitamin D May Help Psoriasis
Vitamin D is a relatively popular ingredient in topical creams and ointments used to treat psoriasis, but can supplemental D also be effective? That’s the question asked by Michelle Ingram, PhD, at Massey University in New Zealand.
The study was intended to determine whether vitamin D supplements were more effective than placebo at easing psoriasis symptoms among 101 participants. The main findings of the study were inconclusive due to an unexpected increase in vitamin D levels in the placebo group, possibly due to sunlight. However, Ingram says, further analysis showed strong evidence of a link between higher levels of vitamin D and less severe psoriasis.
“Interestingly, this relationship was only found in about two-thirds of our participants,” says Ingram, “suggesting that vitamin D may be beneficial for some people with psoriasis, yet make no difference for others. Understanding the variability of response to psoriasis treatments in general is a long-term challenge and one that future research will hopefully be able to address.”