Vitamin D which is popularly known as ‘sunshine vitamin’ is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to the sun. Its role in strengthening the bones is very well-known but besides this it plays various essential roles which include:
- Protecting the skin
- Management of blood glucose level
- Prevention of cancer
- Reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Improving energy levels
- Keeping infections at bay
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Let’s get down to the details of the health benefits of vitamin D:
Role in Diabetes Mellitus
Literature states that treatment with vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity and glycemic control in individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Low level of vitamin D in the blood is linked to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and beta-cell dysfunction. Having such a deficiency leads to hyperglycemia and increases the risk of developing diabetic complications in the future.
Studies have further reported that reversal of vitamin D deficiency is associated with improvement in HbA1c. Repletion of vitamin D status in vitamin D deficient individuals improves pre-meal as well as post-meal blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics. (1)
Management of Osteoporosis
Along with calcium, vitamin D is an important nutrient that plays a crucial role in the optimization of bone health. Vitamin D therapy is effective for the prevention of osteoporosis and thus it reduces the risk of bone fractures.
This sunshine vitamin enhances calcium absorption and strengthens the bones. In case of vitamin D deficiency, calcium absorption is decreased and production of osteoclast, bone-breaking cells increases.
If such a deficiency is not corrected, it may further lead to osteomalacia; softening of the bones and osteoporosis. Getting adequate vitamin D from sunlight and vitamin D-rich food sources can protect the bones against damage. (2, 3)
Cuts Down the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Insufficiency of vitamin D in older adults increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment and dementia.
Amyloid plaques (protein fragments) get accumulated between the nerve cells in the brain and damage the brain cells. Vitamin D helps in the clearance of amyloid plaques and protects the brain cells against death.
Studies have revealed that vitamin D helps in the treatment and prevention of various health conditions and depression is one of them.
A study found that treatment with vitamin D significantly reduces depressive symptoms which include anxiety, poor appetite, loss of sleep, mood swings and loss of interest in activities.
Vitamin D further inhibits the action of certain compounds that play a causative role in the onset of depression. On the other hand, it also enhances the release of happy hormones that uplift the mood and give a feeling of well-being.
It has been observed that individuals who get tired easily or those who have low levels of energy are usually vitamin D deficient. Studies have reported that normalization of vitamin D is associated with improvements in fatigue symptoms.
Furthermore, vitamin D influences the immune system by stimulating the production of immune cells that protect the body against infections and illnesses. They keep the body strong and fit and enhance the energy levels.
Moreover, vitamin D counteracts muscle fatigue by improving calcium absorption, bone density and overall skeletal health. Hence, natural vitamin D therapy can make you feel fresh and energized and reduce the severity of fatigue symptoms. (8, 9)
Aids Weight Loss
Obesity is a risk factor for various diseases and disorders. It is found that obese individuals are often vitamin D deficient. Taking vitamin D supplements along with calorie-restricted diet promotes weight loss in obese individuals.
Vitamin D has beneficial effects on body composition and it helps in decreasing body fat and waist circumference. It plays an important role breakdown of fat for the purpose of energy. In the absence of this vitamin, fat gets accumulated in the body and this leads to obesity and weight gain. Hence, taking a walk in the sunlight can help you lose weight. (10, 11)
Management of Cancer
A vast array of literature has found a positive relationship between adequate vitamin D status and reduced risk of cancer. Insufficiency of this fat-soluble vitamin increases the risk of several cancers, which include colon, breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.
Vitamin D prevents or slows down cancer by lowering cancer cell growth and stimulating death of cancer cells. It further inhibits multiplication and spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.
Vitamin D cuts down blood supply to the tumor. Without the supply of blood and nutrients, tumor cannot grow in size. Such anti-cancer activities of vitamin D makes it beneficial in the treatment and management of cancer. (12)
Boosts Immune System
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in keeping infections at bay. It boosts the immune system and defends the body from harmful organisms.
The deficiency of vitamin D increases the susceptibility to infections. It stimulates the action of immune cells that fight against foreign organisms and prevent their entry into the body.
Vitamin D plays a protective role against various infections such as tuberculosis, upper respiratory tract infections, bacterial vaginosis and HIV. It further suppresses the production of inflammatory compounds and stimulates the formation of anti-inflammatory compounds that in turn protect the body against damage. (13)
Fights Skin Aging
Vitamin D slows down skin aging by repairing the damaged skin cells. It scavenges free radicals that are an important cause of premature aging. It increases the production of skin proteins that make the skin look young, soft and lustrous. Hence, vitamin D therapy can exert a rejuvenating effect on the skin. (14)