Fight off These 5 Illnesses With Vitamin D
About one third of Americans do not have sufficient vitamin D levels with 8% at risk for vitamin D deficiency, according to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vitamin D is best known for its role in enhancing the absorption of calcium and maintaining normal blood calcium levels. However, it has effects throughout your body including those on inflammation, cell growth and immune function.
In severe cases of vitamin D deficiency, the bones can become soft, a disease known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. However, deficiency does not need to be severe to have an impact on your health. Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in a range of different diseases and here’s why it may help to take it regularly:
- Heart Disease – Vitamin D deficiency is associated with risk of hypertension, diabetes and increased inflammation, all of which can contribute to heart disease risk. There are also vitamin D receptors on heart muscle cells so vitamin D may contribute directly to how well your heart functions.
- Type 2 Diabetes – Vitamin D has a direct effect on the pancreatic cells that secrete insulin. So when vitamin D levels are low, your body may have a harder time regulating glucose levels, increasing risk of diabetes. Diabetic patients have been observed to have a tendency to have poorer glucose control during the winter months when natural vitamin D production from sun exposure tends to be lower.
- Alzheimer’s – Vitamin D receptors are expressed throughout the brain, including areas involved in memory. Insufficient vitamin D levels have been associated with cognitive impairments and Alzheimer’s.
- Osteoporosis – Vitamin D regulates calcium metabolism by enhancing calcium absorption and building bone mineral density. Sufficient vitamin D levels maintain bone strength and reduce risk of osteoporosis and fractures in older adults.
- Colorectal Cancer – The Vitamin D receptor regulates genes which control growth, differentiation and survival of cells, all processes that can lead to cancer if they become dysfunctional. Dietary vitamin D3 intake or sunlight exposure have been shown to be correlated with colorectal cancer. People who have higher levels of vitamin D tend to have lower risk of colorectal cancer.
The majority of your body’s vitamin D is produced naturally in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D however is not naturally available in many foods. Some fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are high in vitamin D with smaller amounts present in liver and eggs. However, in the United States most milk (as well as some juices and cereals) is fortified with vitamin D and this has become our primary dietary source of vitamin D.
Time spent indoors, fewer hours of daylight during winter months or cloud coverage can limit sun exposure and reduce the amount of vitamin D produced by your skin. Sunscreen or darker skin color help protect your skin from the harmful effects of UVB rays and can also limit your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D even when exposed to the sun. Being overweight has also been associated with low vitamin D levels. This effect is independent of diet and physical activity levels so less time being active outdoors does not fully explain the differences. While the effect is not completely understood, because vitamin D is fat soluble it has been proposed that vitamin D is being stored in the excess fat so there is less available for use in the body. Diets low in vitamin D can also contribute to low vitamin D levels. People who avoid milk due to lactose intolerance or a vegan diet may be particularly susceptible to not getting enough dietary vitamin D.
Genetics can also contribute to your vitamin D levels. Many of the mutations that can affect vitamin D are located in the VDR gene which encodes the vitamin D receptor. Vitamin D receptors in the intestines help absorb calcium from your diet. It is also implicated in broader roles in the regulation of genes that control cell proliferation and differentiation as well modulating immune responses.
DNA testing can help you understand your unique needs for vitamin D and other nutrients. Whether you need vitamin D or other supplements is a combination of your genes and how you live your life. To help you navigate the complex supplementation space, Vitagene provides DNA-based personalized supplementation recommendations based on your genetics and lifestyle factors such as diet, medical history, medications and health goals. We also offer value-priced supplementation subscription offers through our partnerships with Douglas Laboratories, Pure Encapsulation and Vitamere Laboratories. Find out more about our DNA-based personalized health and wellness platform at www.vitagene.com.
Sources: 21592422, 20181782, 19833894, 24119980, 26510847, 21861107, 23149428, 18329892, 23107484, 21515843, 25400874, 25098535