The more study that goes into the healthy long-term effect of vitamin D on the body, the more researchers realize its remarkable potential. Early studies have found links between vitamin D and health benefits such as stronger bones and a decreased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and cancer. Increased vitamin D consumption has even been liked to weight loss.
While vitamin D isn’t a wonder pill that will make all of your health concerns go away, it still offers the potential of improving your general health in ways few other vitamins can. Here are some of the many reasons why you should make sure to get plenty of vitamin D in your diet.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D, which comes from the body’s reaction to sunlight, a number of foods, and supplements, plays an important role in how our bodies develop. In children, vitamin D helps to build strong bones and prevent the onset of rickets, which causes weak bones, knocked knees, and bowed legs.
Vitamin D plays such a vital role in the development of bones that after the vitamin was added to milk during the 1930s, the condition of rickets was nearly eliminated in U.S. children.
As we age, vitamin D continues to play an important role in maintaining bone density by helping the body absorb calcium from food. Studies have shown that seniors who receive a dose of vitamin D daily enjoy stronger bones and a decreased risk of suffering a fracture than those whose diet is low in vitamin D.
Studies have also shown a link between low vitamin D levels in the body and type 2 diabetes, the most common form of blood sugar disorder, and obesity.
While not enough scientific evidence exists for doctors to recommend vitamin D as a means for helping to prevent diabetes, the data does suggest that prediabetic individuals would benefit by adding more vitamin D to their diet.
Research has drawn a clearer line between the benefits of vitamin D to overweight and obese individuals. Studies have found links that show individuals who are obese usually have low blood levels of vitamin D due to body fat’s ability to trap the vitamin and make it less available to the rest of the body.
By raising vitamin D consumption, researchers have found the obese individuals on strict calorie-restricted diets have an easier time losing weight.
How to Get More Vitamin D
The primary way your body acquires vitamin D is through sun exposure. When the warm rays from the sun hit your skin, the body starts producing vitamin D. However, relying on getting enough vitamin D strictly from sun exposure increases your risk of becoming vitamin D deficient.
While those with light skin might be able to acquire enough vitamin D by spending 10 minutes a day outside, seniors and those with darker complexions don’t produce as much of the vitamin when exposed to sunlight.
Additionally, trying to get enough sun exposure to create needed amounts of vitamin D can become tricky on cloudy days, during the low light of winter, or when using sunscreen, an important part of avoiding skin cancer. To ensure you get enough vitamin D, you need to rely on supplements and food.
The majority of foods we eat don’t naturally contain vitamin D. One notable exception is fish, especially mackerel, swordfish, and salmon, which can provide a daily dose of vitamin D in just one serving. Small amounts of the vitamin can also be found in fortified cereals and milk, beef liver, and egg yolk.
Unfortunately, not every type of dairy contains added vitamin D, so cheese and ice cream lovers can’t expect to get their required daily dose. The best way to ensure you receive vitamin D daily is by taking a supplement.
Most nutritionists recommend a daily intake of 600 international units of vitamin D for adults 70 and under, while those over 70 should increase their daily consumption to 800 IU. However, like most things, even those good for you, too much vitamin D can actually hurt your body, so make sure you don’t exceed 4,000 IU a day.