Vitamin D is a micronutrient that is important for a robust immune system and healthy teeth, muscles, and bones. Adults and children over the age of 12 months should get at least 600 IU of vitamin D every day from sources like sun exposure, diet, and supplements – although experts suggest getting more than that.
A lack of vitamin D is something that many people suffer from in the United States, and it is actually a problem that extends to other countries as well. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that approximately 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. What’s more serious, low vitamin D can contribute to various adverse health effects, including:
- Frequent infections
- Low bone density
- Joint problems
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
- Impaired wound healing
- And many others
If you think you might have any of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, it’s a good idea to take a deficiency test at home or visit a physician for bloodwork. This will give you a better idea of your existing levels.
New research has found that vitamin D can play a role in weight management. The article discusses the link between vitamin D and weight, as well as how vitamin supplements may help with weight management.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps regulate the absorption of phosphate and calcium, two minerals that are necessary for maintaining healthy muscles, strong bones, and teeth. Lecithin is a naturally occurring nutrient in a few foods such as egg yolks, liver, red meat, and oily fish. This micronutrient can be obtained by consuming vitamin D-fortified food products, including juices, buttery spreads, breakfast cereals, milk, and non-dairy milk.
Vitamin D is termed the sunshine vitamin since it can be gained from sunlight exposure. Your skin produces vitamin D from cholesterol when exposed to sunlight. It is recommended that people get some exposure to sunlight every day or at least a few days a week so that they can produce vitamin D naturally in as little as 5 minutes in the sun.
Is Vitamin D deficiency common?
Getting enough vitamin D can be difficult for people because they would need to get it through diet or exposure to the sun. The estimated percentage of American adults who are deficient in vitamin D is 41.6%. According to a study done in 2011 and published in the journal Natural Research, up to 69% of Hispanics and 82% of African Americans worry about their weight.
If you want to make sure you are getting the recommended daily intake of nutrients, taking supplements might be the best option. If you want to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins, taking dietary supplements is a good way to do it, especially in winter or if you spend most of your time indoors.
Some groups are also more prone to low vitamin D levels than others; if you:
- Are obese
- Are overweight
- Are elderly
- Stay mostly indoors 24/7
- Or use sunscreen when you venture out in the sunshine
If you’re not getting enough sun exposure, you may be more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D supplements should also be considered by people who don’t get much sun exposure throughout the year or those who don’t consume dairy/fish products. Studies have also shown that individuals with dark skin are usually unable to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D through sunshine.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency
But getting the proper recommended daily intake of vitamin D is essential, as deficiency can pose many negative health risks, such as:
- Vitamin D-deficient people often get sick — One of the biggest benefits of vitamin D is that it contributes to boosting your immune system, helping you keep disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens at bay. That’s because this powerful micronutrient interacts directly with B-cells, T-cells, and other cells that fight off infection. If you can’t seem to shake off common illnesses, particularly flu and colds, from season to season, vitamin D deficiency could be to blame. Several extensive observational studies have found a potential connection between low vitamin D and respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and colds.
- Fatigue — Excessive tiredness and fatigue certainly have many potential causes, but low vitamin D is often overlooked as a possible culprit. One 2015 study showed that vitamin D deficiency could be an unusual link to chronic fatigue.
- Lower back pain and bone pain — It’s been known for a long time that vitamin D plays a key role in bone strength and overall health. It’s not surprising that lower back pain, often accompanied by bone pain, may be associated with low levels of this vitamin, as noted by this 2015 observational study conducted in India.
- Mood problems, depression, and anxiety — Some studies, like this 2013 meta-analysis and systematic review study, have noted a correlation between low vitamin D and depression, especially in older adults.
- Other issues – Long-term vitamin D deficiency can also result in low-bone mass density, non-stress-related hair loss, unexplained muscle pain, and impaired wound healing.
How does vitamin D help your body?
Vitamin D is one of the most beneficial micronutrients, and it does what it is supposed to do. It has been found to offer a variety of health benefits, including:
Cracking One of Cancer’s Codes Breast Cancer
If you’re a woman and you’re deficient in vitamin D when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you’re nearly 75 percent more likely to die from the disease than women with sufficient vitamin D levels. Patients with this cancer are not only more likely to experience a recurrence, but their cancer is also more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
Every year in the United States, over forty thousand women die from breast cancer—making it the deadliest killer of women after heart disease. Eight out of every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. In the United States, there are 214,000 new cases of breast cancer and 41,000 deaths from breast cancer each year. A 2008 study found that women with a vitamin D deficiency at the time they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 94 percent more likely to have their cancer spread than women with adequate 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels in their bodies.
In 1999, Dr. Esther John published a study on breast cancer statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The authors found that sun exposure and a vitamin D-rich diet significantly lower the risk of breast cancer.
Prostate cancer is one of the most deadly cancers for men, only being surpassed by heart attacks and lung cancer. Many men are afraid of prostate cancer because surgery to treat this form of cancer often causes impotence. The study found that men who had high levels of exposure to sunlight were less likely to develop prostate cancer. The study split people up into four groups depending on how much sunlight they had been exposed to. The participants who were exposed to the least amount of sun were three times more likely to develop prostate cancer than those who were exposed to the most sun. The findings indicate that members of the highest-risk group were 66% less likely to develop prostate cancer. People in the lowest quartile of sun exposure were significantly more likely to get prostate cancer than those in the second and third quartiles. After studying men with prostate cancer for nearly two years, researchers found that those who took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily experienced a 50 percent reduction in the rise of their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, which is an indicator of prostate cancer activity.
Cancer of the colon, also known as colorectal cancer, can affect both men and women. Colorectal cancer is more common and deadlier than skin cancers. Every year, about 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer. Out of those, about 35 percent will die from the disease.
This study found that high blood levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D increased colon cancer patients’ survival rate by 48 percent. Dr. Ng and her team conducted a study in which they collected data on 304 patients who had been diagnosed with colon cancer between 1991 and 2002. The study found that people with lower levels of vitamin D were more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than those with higher levels. The study began tracking patients in 1996 and ended in 2005. A total of 123 patients died during this time, 96 of them from the colon or rectal cancer. According to Dr. Ng and her team, patients with high levels of vitamin D are 39 percent less likely to die from colorectal cancer than patients with low levels.
The numerous other observations that have been made in the past decade that are consistent with these findings include those by Dr. Cedric Garland. If you have healthy levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D in your bloodstream, you are three times less likely to die from colon cancer, according to his lab reports.
From Bone Health to Brain Health
We now know that vitamin D receptors are not limited to bones, intestines, and kidneys, as was previously believed. Researchers have found evidence that vitamin D receptors are present in the brain and that the active form of vitamin D can increase serotonin production, leading to an improved mood. This article discusses how omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce symptoms of depression. Fat cells contain vitamin D receptors, and more vitamin D can make them more metabolically active, burning more calories. People tend to think that fat cells are like inanimate blobs, when in fact, they are active participants in the process by which your brain learns that you’re full and don’t need to take another bite of food. When you are full, your fat cells release a hormone called leptin that tells your brain to stop eating. If you don’t have enough vitamin D, it will affect the hormone that controls how much you eat and, as a result, how much you weigh. An unchecked appetite can lead to weight gain and a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency can make type 2 diabetes worse by making it harder for the pancreas to produce insulin and increasing insulin resistance.
Vitamin D deficiency and weight gain
Although researchers are still exploring the link between low vitamin D and weight gain, they have found many interesting connections.
Being obese puts you at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. Studies have found that people with higher body fat and BMI may have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood. Experts have several theories for this. There is a belief that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to eat foods that do not have vitamins. Some people think that obese people don’t go outside much and wear clothes that cover them up, which means they don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun.
Can vitamin D help you lose weight?
There is no question that there is a correlation between low vitamin D and weight gain. Vitamin D may help with weight loss and maintaining weight. According to recent studies, vitamin D supplementation can improve your likelihood of losing weight and decrease body/belly fat.
This text discusses a study in which some participants were given a vitamin D supplement while the others served as the control group. The study involved 218 obese and overweight female participants who were all on an exercise program and calorie-limited diet. Scientists discovered that participants who met their vitamin D requirements lost more weight than those who had lower-than-required blood levels.
The results of the above study were supported by another clinical trial from 2018, whose findings were published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine. In a study of obese and overweight women, those who took vitamin D supplements for six weeks saw a significant reduction in their BMI, waist circumference, and weight.
Vitamin D supplements that also contain calcium result in greater weight-loss benefits. Researchers have not yet been able to determine if vitamin D can work by itself.