The Benefits of Vitamin D Supplements
The major biologic function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. A 2000 study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that 77 percent of Americans are vitamin-D deficient. Recently, research also suggests that vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and autoimmune diseases.
In children, vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, which results in skeletal deformities. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which results in muscular weakness in addition to weak bones. Populations who may be at a high risk for vitamin D deficiencies include the elderly, obese individuals, and those who have limited sun exposure. Individuals who lack digestive enzymes are at risk of vitamin deficiencies.
Vitamin D deficiency affects smooth muscle contractions, such as those that pump the heart. Deficiency is also associated with kidney disease, which, in turn, is associated with cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is also involved in immune system health by modulating immune cells. According to an August 2010 study published in “Current Opinion in Pharmacology,” immune cells excrete vitamin D-activating enzymes, making adequate vitamin D important for immune system function.
“Discovery Medicine” published an article in January 2011 that examined the role of vitamin D in skin cancer. Vitamin D and its receptors, when deficient, may leave you more vulnerable to developing skin cancer. Vitamin D can be manufactured by your body, provided you’re exposed to sunlight. But sunscreen—a must for preventing wrinkles and skin cancer—reduces your skin’s ability to make D by 90 to 99 percent. Also, the sunlight you’re most likely to get on a daily basis—in the early morning and late afternoon—is too weak to generate enough D. Not to mention that air pollution can filter out some of the UVB rays, so less of them are able to reach your skin at any time of day.
A far safer way to up your D level is to get more of the vitamin from your diet and supplements. Talk to your doctor about how much sun exposure you need and whether vitamin D supplementation is right for you. There are some studies that show Vitamin D may be a factor in weight management. Every cell in your body needs D to function properly including fat cells. Special receptors for D signal whether you should burn fat or simply store it; when D plugs into these receptors, it’s like a key that revs your body’s flab-melting mechanism. Meanwhile, receptors in your brain need D to keep hunger and cravings in check, as well as to pump up levels of the mood-elevating chemical serotonin.
Vitamin D influences cell growth and the creation of new cells, which can impact the way you look, feel and act. Many diseases and disorders stem from disruptions in cell function or abnormal cell growth. The proteins needed to stimulate cell growth and proliferation is impacted by vitamin D. If cells cannot grow properly or proliferate, your tissues, organs, muscles and bones are affected. Additionally, sick or damaged cells typically undergo apoptosis, or cell death, preventing further damage to the body. Without enough vitamin D, this process is disrupted, potentially leading to diseases or tumor growth.