Getting a daily dose of vitamin D is a key component of living a healthy life. From going out into the sun, to taking supplements or eating nutrient-rich food, there are so many sources to benefit your body. So what are the benefits humans enjoy from vitamin D?
StudyFinds has published numerous research articles on vitamin D and how it can boost your health. Studies have shown that it aids in everything from preventing dementia, to treating depression and can even slash the risk of cancer in older adults.
Here’s a look at 19 wonderful reasons to take a daily vitamin D supplement and avoid the harms from vitamin D deficiency. Each vitamin D health benefit comes from a specific article found on StudyFinds.
Helps treat depression
Can simply being out in the sun help battle depression? A study by international researchers finds that vitamin D may reduce depressive symptoms in adults.
Examining dozens of studies from around the world, researchers conducted a meta-analysis on the association between taking vitamin D supplements and depression. The 41 studies investigated the efficacy of vitamin D in combatting depression in adults during randomized placebo-controlled trials in different populations. The studies involved patients with dealing with depression, people from the general population, and those with various physical conditions.
Results from the meta-analysis reveal that vitamin D supplementation is more effective than taking a placebo for lowering depressive symptoms. Researchers say the typical daily supplement contains 50 to 100 micrograms of vitamin D.
Prevents harmful inflammation
Are your inflammation markers usually high when it comes to your routine blood work? Research out of Australia finds you may want to spend more time in the sun and soak in more vitamin D.
A little bit of inflammation is integral to the human body’s natural healing process. Chronic inflammation, however, can actually have the opposite effect. Constantly high levels increase one’s risk of various serious diseases including but not limited to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various autoimmune conditions. Now, a study by scientists at the University of South Australia reports a direct link between low levels of vitamin D and high levels of inflammation.
The research team used Mendelian randomization on the genetic data of 294 ,970 participants enrolled in the UK Biobank project. That analysis revealed a clear association between vitamin D and C-reactive protein levels, considered an indicator of inflammation.
All in all, study authors conclude that getting more vitamin D among people with a deficiency may reduce chronic inflammation.
Protects against dementia, strokes
More sunshine could help ward off dementia, according to a study which reveals a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive decline.
The world-first study discovered that cases of dementia could drop by nearly a fifth if people who are deficient in vitamin D take more supplements to bring them up to healthy levels. Pills aren’t the only solution though, as the skin makes the “sunshine vitamin” after exposure to UV light.
A team from the University of South Australia looked at nearly 300,000 people from the UK Biobank, examining the impact of low levels of vitamin D and the risk of dementia and stroke. They found that low levels of vitamin D displayed a link to lower brain volumes and an increased risk of both conditions.
Further genetic analyses supported a causal effect of vitamin D deficiency and dementia. Researchers report that, in some populations, as much as 17 percent of dementia cases might be preventable through higher vitamin D intake.
Fights Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer
A genetically engineered “super” tomato that may have the power to fight Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer has been created by British scientists. The modified fruit is packed with vitamin D — which also boosts bones, teeth, and muscles.
Estimates show more than four in 10 Americans may have a vitamin D deficiency, which can increase their risk of developing a host of illnesses. Now, a team at the John Innes Centre in Norwich has engineered a variety of tomato that produces more.
They used a gene editing technique known as CRISPR, enabling them to make precise changes in DNA at specific locations. The procedure blocked the action of an enzyme that normally converts the vitamin to cholesterol.
Cuts cancer risk in older adults
Taking vitamin D, omega-3 fish oil, and a simple home exercise program can slash cancer risk by almost two-thirds among older adults, according to new research.
Researchers in Switzerland who studied a group of healthy adults over 70 found the daily supplements – along with regular exercise – reduced invasive disease cases by 61 percent. The findings come from the DO-HEALTH trial, a three-year trial in Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, and Portugal which included 2,157 participants.
Study authors believe the trio of simple and cheap interventions could help combat the world’s second biggest killer.
Lowers risk of developing autoimmune diseases
Taking vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acid supplements could reduce your chance of developing autoimmune diseases, suggests a new study from Brigham And Women’s Hospital. Vitamin D and omega-3s are associated with reducing inflammation, a precursor for autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies the body’s cells and tissues as foreign invaders and attacks them. These diseases are more common in older adults and have a wide range of symptom severity.
Patients who took Vitamin D had fewer diagnoses of autoimmune diseases than people who took a placebo. Vitamin D was associated with a 22% decreased risk for autoimmune diseases.
Decreases breast cancer risk
Beach lovers, rejoice. Research from the University of Buffalo and the University of Puerto Rico reports more sun exposure may lead to a lower breast cancer risk.
Buffalo is known for its harsh winter weather, but sunny Puerto Rico represented the perfect location for this research. After using a chromameter to compare skin pigmentation in unexposed and exposed skin among 307 cases and 328 controls, researchers report greater sun exposure is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Skin pigmentation differences among participants were used estimate usual sun exposure levels.
“This study was unique in that it was of Puerto Rican women, which allowed for us to look at this association in a population with a wide range of skin color and with year-round high sun exposure,” says study senior author Jo L. Freudenheim, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in UB’s School of Public Health, in a university release.
Cuts risk of developing multiple sclerosis in half
A half-hour walk each day can halve a child or young adult’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis, according to a study. Researchers with the American Academy of Neurology say young people who spend most time outdoors — taking in ultraviolet light from the Sun — are less prone to the condition.
The findings add to evidence that vitamin D, produced by sunlight, has a protective effect on the human body. The devastating neurological condition is more common in cloudier countries further away from the equator.
Those who spent an average of 30 minutes to an hour outside each day during the previous summer had a 52-percent lower chance of developing MS. Those who averaged between one and two hours a day outside had an 81-percent reduced risk — compared to peers with less than half an hour of exposure to vitamin D.
Lowers colorectal cancer risk
Adding vitamin D to the menu may be a low-cost way of preventing colorectal cancer in people under 50, a study reveals. Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard have discovered a link between lowering cancer risk in younger adults and the amount of vitamin D they consume through food.
Although colorectal cancer rates are in decline, cases are actually going up among younger patients. While scientists can’t fully explain why this is happening, they note that the intake of vitamin D from foods such as fish, mushrooms, eggs, and milk has decreased over the past few decades.
During their review of over 94,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, the researchers found that participants taking in more vitamin D from food had lower rates of young-onset colorectal cancer and fewer cases of colorectal polyps.
Decreases heart disease risk
Making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D may be a simple way to lower heart disease risk, especially among individuals with darker skin. That’s the main finding of a study by researchers Penn State University. Study authors investigated the links between skin pigmentation, vitamin D, and heart health to reach these conclusions.
The Penn team theorizes vitamin D deficiencies may somewhat explain the particularly high rate of heart disease among African-Americans.
The study finds adults with darker skin showed lower vitamin D levels and lower nitric oxide availability. Also, lower vitamin D levels were related to reduced nitric oxide-mediated blood vessel function.
Protects against COVID-19
Research is adding to the growing amount of evidence that vitamin D may help beat back the risk of contracting COVID-19. Researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine say this is especially true for African-Americans.
Their study shows, however, that the same drop in the risk of infection did not occur in whites taking vitamin D supplements. Previous studies have discovered that around 80 percent of COVID-19 patients have a vitamin D deficiency.
“These new results tell us that having vitamin D levels above those normally considered sufficient is associated with decreased risk of testing positive for COVID-19, at least in Black individuals,” lead author Dr. David Meltzer says in a university release.
Prevents colds, flu, and respiratory infections
Looking for an extra layer of protection for flu season? A major global study finds vitamin D helps shield against respiratory infections such as colds and influenza, especially in those who are deficient in it.
Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London found that vitamin D has health benefits beyond its effect on muscle and bone, what it is most known for, and could lead the way for new public health policies, such as infusing food with the vitamin.
“The bottom line is that the protective effects of vitamin D supplementation are strongest in those who have the lowest vitamin D levels, and when supplementation is given daily or weekly rather than in more widely spaced doses,” says professor Adrian Martineau from QMUL, a lead researcher in the study, in a university release.
Significantly lowers advanced cancer risk
Scientists have suspected for decades that vitamin D helps prevent cancer to some extent, but have struggled to come to any conclusive findings. Now, a study finds vitamin D drops the risk of developing advanced cancers by 17 percent.
Prior studies had revealed people living closer to the equator (and thus receiving more sunlight and vitamin D) experience lower than average rates of certain cancers. Similarly, experiments performed on mice show that vitamin D can indeed slow the progression of cancer to a certain extent. However, randomized clinical trials focusing on vitamin D and cancer have ultimately produced confusing results. The Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) in 2018 declared vitamin D does not reduce the overall incidence of cancer. It did however find some evidence suggesting vitamin D can decrease risk of death by cancer.
These new findings are actually the result of a secondary analysis of VITAL. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital focused more specifically on the relationship between vitamin D supplements and metastatic/fatal cancer risk. Besides the overall 17 percent drop in advanced cancer risk, when researchers only examined participants with a normal Body Mass Index (BMI), they noted an astounding 38-percent drop in advanced cancer likelihood in patients taking regular vitamin D supplements.
Impacts child’s intelligence
For expecting mothers, vitamin D is important for their health and their baby’s too. A study finds this critical nutrient isn’t just vital for growth but also impacts a child’s intelligence as well. Researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute say mothers with higher vitamin D levels during pregnancy tend to have children with greater IQ scores.
Melissa Melough, the study’s lead author, adds that this connection specifically shows up in the children of Black women. The study finds vitamin D deficiency is a common problem among pregnant women, but Black mothers-to-be are at higher risk.
“Melanin pigment protects the skin against sun damage, but by blocking UV rays, melanin also reduces vitamin D production in the skin. Because of this, we weren’t surprised to see high rates of vitamin D deficiency among Black pregnant women in our study. Even though many pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin, this may not correct an existing vitamin D deficiency,” the research scientist in the Center of Child Health, Behavior, and Development says in a media release.
Reduces severe eczema symptoms
Taking a daily vitamin D supplement may decrease eczema symptoms by a third, researchers say.
Known clinically as atopic dermatitis (AD), eczema is the most common skin disorder in children. As many as one in five kids worldwide suffer from the condition. Flare-ups are particularly bad in the winter months.
Scientists from Mansoura University say vitamin D supplements could be a good treatment to help boost the immune system and help ease its uncomfortable symptoms among patients. These include red, itchy skin and intermittent flares which can have debilitating effects on a patient’s quality of life.
Weakens chemo side effects
Despite its shortcomings, chemotherapy is still considered among the top cancer treatment options for many patients. Unfortunately, as many patients can attest, the side effects that come along with chemo treatments are often far more debilitating than the cancer itself. However, a study out of the University of South Australia finds that vitamin D may go a long way toward mitigating some of chemotherapy’s most burdensome side effects.
Besides the well known drawbacks like hair loss and constant nausea, another very common side effect associated with chemotherapy is gastrointestinal mucositis. The condition involves a very unpleasant and painful inflammation (and ulceration) of the digestive tract. This research concludes that vitamin D can potentially weaken stomach inflammation caused by chemotherapy.
Besides just vitamin D, probiotics also showed promise as a possible relief option for chemotherapy patients dealing with gastrointestinal mucositis.
Key in fighting off coronavirus
In the event of a coronavirus infection, one’s immune system usually needs all the help it can get. To that end, a study has found that supplements containing vitamin C and D, as well as other micronutrients, are a safe, effective, and affordable way to held fend off COVID-19. Researchers even say that dosage amounts exceeding federal guidelines, in some cases, are beneficial.
The research team, an international collection featuring scientists from the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, believe health officials should issue a clear set of nutritional guidelines for mitigating COVID-19 risk factors. Just like other major campaigns regarding handwashing or the importance of social distancing.
These findings don’t just apply to COVID-19; dietary supplements can help fight any number of acute respiratory tract diseases.
Extends lifespans of cancer patients
Vitamin D is well-known for its bone-strengthening properties, but it may be even more critical to our health than believed. Michigan State University research reveals that the sunshine vitamin may also be a cancer-fighting powerhouse.
Of course, our bodies naturally the sun’s energy into Vitamin D. We can also up our intake by consuming fish, eggs, mushrooms and some fortified foods. Or one can simply swallow an over-the-counter supplement. Although it may not prevent cancer on its own, researchers say this readily-available vitamin increases longevity of cancer patients if taken for at least three years.
“Vitamin D had a significant effect on lowering the risk of death among those with cancer,” says lead study author Tarek Haykal, an internal medicine resident physician at the university, in a media release. “But, unfortunately, it didn’t show any proof that it could protect against getting cancer.”
Reduces autism risk during pregnancy
Research has shown that vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis in older adults, and can also reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, among other life-threatening illnesses. But the so-called “sunshine” vitamin has received far less public health emphasis than vitamins C and E.
Two studies – one with humans, the other with lab mice — suggest that the long-neglected supplement can also help reduce the threat of a baby being born with autism, a neuro-developmental disorder that affects 1 in 45 children.
The mothers of autistic children displayed a significant vitamin D deficiency, suggesting that the two conditions were somehow correlated.
As always, check with your doctor about changing your diet or taking vitamin D supplements.