6 Surprising Benefits of Vitamin D

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Filed Under: Nutritional Support, General Health, Nutrient Guide
Last Reviewed 02/25/2014

Surprising Benefits of Vitamin D

You are likely familiar with some of the benefits of vitamin D, including its ability to help prevent osteoporosis and colds and flu. But here are six other ways optimal levels of vitamin D can help improve or support your health, and why supplementing with vitamin D is so important.

  1. Abdominal obesity. Research has shown that vitamin D blood levels are inversely associated with excess weight and abdominal obesity. That is, the lower the blood level of vitamin D the more likely a person is to carry excess weight, particularly in the abdominal region.
     
  2. Cognitive problems. Several studies on the benefits of vitamin D have focused on cognitive function. In one study, researchers tested the vitamin D blood levels of nearly 2,000 people over age 65. After adjusting for age, education, and other factors, they found that those with low levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to have cognitive problems.
     
  3. Neurodegenerative diseases. Higher vitamin D levels may also protect against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists from my alma mater, Emory University School of Medicine, tested the vitamin D blood levels of 300 individuals and found that 36 percent of healthy people had vitamin D deficiencies, compared to 41 percent of those with Alzheimer’s and 55 percent of those with Parkinson’s disease.
     
  4. Osteoarthritis. In a Boston University Medical Center study, researchers analyzed data from 640 participants and vitamin D blood levels were correlated with X-rays of arthritic knees over an eight-year period. An inverse relationship was noted between progression of osteoarthritis and vitamin D blood levels—the less vitamin D, the worse the arthritis.
     
  5. Testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels are a known risk factor for several conditions including depression, fatigue, weight gain, bone loss, metabolic syndrome, and reduced libido. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that higher levels of vitamin D correlated with higher levels of testosterone in men. These findings back up previous studies that indicated just an hour of sun exposure (and the resulting rise in vitamin D; your body produces vitamin D when it is exposed to UVB rays) could boost a man’s testosterone by as much as 69 percent.
     
  6. Pelvic floor disorders. Roughly one in four women suffers from a pelvic floor disorder (PFD), such as pelvic organ prolapse or fecal or urinary incontinence, and one study suggests that low levels of vitamin D may be a factor. In an analysis of data that included 1,881 women age 20 and older, researchers reported that each 5 ng/mL increase in vitamin D levels corresponded to a 6 percent decrease in PFDs.

    This means that a woman with a vitamin D level of 50 ng/mL was 24 percent less likely to suffer from a PFD than a woman who had a level of 30 ng/mL. And the protective effects were even greater among women age 50 and older, where each 5 ng/mL increase in vitamin D was associated with an 8 percent lower risk. Adequate vitamin D is required for healthy muscle synthesis, so these findings are consistent with the belief that most PFDs are the result of neuromuscular dysfunction.

As you can see, there are various benefits of vitamin D, which is why it’s important to keep your blood levels in the optimal range of 40–80 ng/mL. To do that I recommend spending time in the sun (when you can) and also supplementing with vitamin D3. Start by taking 2,000–5,000 IU daily, in divided doses. Then have your vitamin D blood levels tested after a few months, and adjust your dosage to keep your levels in the optimal range.

Now it’s your turn: Do you take vitamin D supplements?

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