Nutrition Articles

How to Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D

Important Reasons to Soak Up the Sunshine Vitamin

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When is a vitamin not really a vitamin? When it's vitamin D! The "sunshine" vitamin, aptly named because sunlight is a source of it, is actually a hormone. Vitamin D is currently receiving a lot of attention and research regarding its role in various diseases. Because it isn't found in many foods, and people tend to slather on sunscreen (which blocks your body's ability to make vitamin D from the sun) or spend most of the day indoors, many are wondering if their intake of vitamin D is sufficient.

Why Vitamin D Matters
A report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicates that there is strong scientific evidence showing that vitamin D plays an important role in bone health. Vitamin D then helps to deposit these minerals in your skeleton and teeth, making them stronger and healthier. Therefore, vitamin D helps prevent the fractures associated with osteoporosis, the bone deformation of rickets, and the muscle weakness and bone aches and pains of osteomalacia (the softening of bones).

But a deficiency of vitamin D may go beyond bones—it may be related to a variety of health problems. Because it's a hormone, and your body is full of receptors for this hormone, it may play a role in the prevention of other ailments. After analyzing more than 1,000 studies the IOM believes that there is not substantial evidence to support vitamin D's role in other diseases. But preliminary research indicates the importance of meeting one’s basic daily needs for vitamin D is important for overall health and well-being. A lack of vitamin D has been blamed for a plethora of health problems, but more targeted research should continue for diseases such as:
  • Cancer. Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D has an anti-cancer benefit. It may stop the growth and progression of cancer cells and be beneficial during cancer treatment, too.
  • Hormonal problems. Vitamin D influences the functions of insulin, rennin, serotonin and estrogen—hormones involved with health conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression and premenstrual syndrome.
  • Obesity. Some research shows that a vitamin D deficiency can interfere with the "fullness" hormone leptin, which signals the brain that you are full and should stop eating.
  • Inflammation. Vitamin D may help control the inflammation involved with periodontal disease, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
  • Weakened immune system. Vitamin D may play a role in a strengthening your immune system, especially in autoimmune disorders (when the body attacks itself) like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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