Research on Vitamin D — and It’s Incredible!

Does Vitamin D Do a Body Good?

Vitamins and minerals play critical roles in our health. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients can lead to unwanted health problems. Recently a lot of attention has been focused on vitamin D, a nutrient that supports several of our bodily systems. Why is this important to you? Read on.

Some facts about vitamin D you may already know:

  • Vitamin D is synthesized in our skin when we come into contact with sunlight
  • Foods high in vitamin D include milk, egg yolks and beef liver
  • Vitamin D regulates calcium levels in our body and strengthens bones
  • Results of vitamin D deficiency may include joint and muscle pain, severe asthma in children, heart disease and cancer
Eat Foods High in Vitamin D.
Natural sources of vitamin D include salmon, eggs and milk.

Another thing that’s well-known and documented about vitamin D is that a growing number of adults and teens in the United States aren’t getting enough of it.

A growing number of adults and teens in the United States aren’t getting enough vitamin D.

Science Takes a Closer Look

For this reason, researchers are working hard to understand more about the connection between vitamin D and our health. Across numerous studies, the goal is to demonstrate just how important this nutrient is to both our current state of health and our longevity.

Let’s look at a few areas studied over the last several years, including this one by the Cleveland Clinic.

Heart failure

While the mechanism isn’t clear, scientists believe that sufficient levels of vitamin D offer protection against various cardiovascular events.

For example, one study of laboratory rats discovered that 1.25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (a form of vitamin D) inhibited the cells that produce scar tissue after a heart attack. Scar tissue makes it hard for the heart to pump blood, which can lead to further cardiovascular problems.

Cancer

Both colorectal and breast cancer are thought to be related to a deficiency in vitamin D.

A group of researchers in one study showed that high vitamin D levels in cancer-free women led to a reduced likelihood of them developing breast cancer in coming years. Interestingly, this reduced risk held up even when factoring in age, lack of calcium supplementation, smoking, high body mass index and other indicators thought to be linked to breast cancer.

Multiple studies have looked at the connection between colorectal cancer and vitamin D deficiency. Although evidence isn’t conclusive, a recent study suggests that individuals with vitamin D levels above the current National Academy of Medicine recommendations for bone health had a 22% reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer. People with levels below the recommendation had a 31% greater risk.

Belly fat

Research on fat and vitamin D has turned up some interesting results. In a study conducted in the Netherlands, scientists found that low levels of vitamin D contributed to increased total fat and, specifically, belly fat in women. In men, increased belly fat and liver fat seemed to be caused by low vitamin D levels.

Belly fat, or subcutaneous fat, creates chemicals called cytokines, which are believed to increase a person’s risk of heart attack and make the body less sensitive to insulin. This would explain why many people who are overweight and obese develop diabetes. Another concern with excess fat around the midsection is the development of certain cancers. The American Cancer Society has stated that belly fat may be linked to cancers of the colon, pancreas and esophagus.

3 Ways to Get More Vitamin D

Along with the serious health conditions mentioned here, researchers are looking at Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain syndromes and other illnesses to determine if a link exists between them and vitamin D deficiency. This nutrient may not be a “cure-all” for what ails you, but evidence certainly points toward a need to make sure we’re getting sufficient amounts of it.

“Vitamin D is important for many aspects of health, from bone health to nerve signaling and immune system function. Not sure if you’re getting enough vitamin D? Your doctor can check your levels with a simple blood test.” 

Carolyn Schut, MS, RD, LD, CLC Registered Dietitian, Health Plan of Nevada

Here are three ways you can increase your vitamin D levels.

We invite you to use this information to make dietary and lifestyle modifications that will bring more vitamin D into your system. You may feel better and possibly prevent a number of unwanted health conditions. Please consult with your health care provider before beginning any health related program.

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