Vitamin D is also known as ‘the sunshine vitamin‘ because our bodies synthesize it when sunlight hits our skin.
As little as 5-10 minutes of sun exposure on bare skin two or three times a week is enough for most people to produce enough vitamin D.
But, around 75 percent of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency.
One reason is because vitamin D breaks down quickly so stores can run low in winter. And, it probably doesn’t help that the average American spends 93 percent of their time either indoors or in an enclosed vehicle.
As a result, many people have to rely on supplements to ensure they get enough vitamin D. But, why is it so important?
Here we explain more about the many health benefits of vitamin D, as well as the best vitamin D supplements to take.
Different Types of Vitamin D Supplements
In an ideal world, we would all get enough vitamin D from the sun. But, in parts of the world where sunlight is scarce at certain times of the year, vitamin D supplements are a necessity.
Also, those with darker skin colors, such as African Americans, do not tend to absorb enough vitamin D from sunlight. As a result, they are more likely to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency and require supplements.
But, there are two forms of vitamin D supplements – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is the best vitamin D form for optimum health as it is the natural form of the vitamin that your body makes from sunlight. D3 vitamin supplements are made from lanolin.
In comparison, supplements containing vitamin D2, or calciferol, are made from irradiated fungus, making them vegan-friendly.
Some studies show that vitamin D2 works well. But a systematic review found that vitamin D3 supplements are the most effective form of vitamin D.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
Now you know that a vitamin D3 supplement is the way to go, read on to discover the many benefits of getting enough of this crucial vitamin.
1. Strengthens Bones
One of the principal D3 vitamin benefits is the role it plays in helping your body absorb calcium to promote bone growth.
Vitamin D deficiency in children and young adults results in soft bones, also known as rickets. Adults deficient in vitamin D can suffer from fragile and misshapen bones, known as osteomalacia.
Those with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to have lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone loss or fracture.
For older adults, taking a vitamin D3 supplement alongside a calcium supplement can decrease the risk of osteoporosis and resulting fractures as a result of falls.
2. Improves Physical Performance
Studies show that getting enough vitamin D also improves physical performance, muscle strength, and balance.
This means that vitamin D not only helps reduce the risk of fractures as a result of falls, it also makes falls less likely due to improved balance and strength.
Thanks to the way vitamin D improves muscle metabolism, it can also help with athletic performance and weightlifting ability.
As a result, athletes may see an improvement in agility, endurance, and strength, while also suffering fewer injuries.
3. Reduces Depression
Ensuring that you have sufficient levels of important vitamins is one of many healthy ways to deal with depression. And, vitamin D is especially important for improving mood and reducing depressive symptoms.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a higher prevalence of depression, as well as a 50 percent increase in suicide rates.
As such, sufferers of depression may experience a reduction in symptoms and better physical functioning by taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
4. Boosts Brain Function
As well as helping with mood and reducing depression, vitamin D also plays an important role in overall brain health and development.
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a wide range of neurological diseases, as well as impairments in memory and orientation. As such, one of the many roles of vitamin D is to help protect against the effects of aging on the brain.
In fact, ensuring adequate vitamin D intake can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. Vitamin D supplementation can also help to lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease, which is associated with low levels of vitamin D.
5. Protects from Cancer
Vitamin D also helps protect your body from a range of cancers. This is due to the role vitamin D plays in inhibiting the spread of cancer cell growth, as well as helping to limit the survival of cancerous cells.
Studies into several types of cancer support this link.
For example, women who obtain enough vitamin D through diet and sunlight exposure show a lower incidence and recurrence of breast cancer. High levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
And, there is a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer in those who have higher intakes of vitamin D.
6. Benefits Cardiovascular Health
Those deficient in vitamin D have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease.
This is thought to be due to the role vitamin D plays in maintaining healthy blood vessels and heart function.
Also, studies show that vitamin D can indirectly help reduce hypertension and improve blood pressure control.
So, ensuring that you get enough vitamin D, as well as establishing healthy habits like regular meditation can help to lower blood pressure and overall heart health.
The Sunshine Vitamin and its Benefits
As this long list of just some of the many health benefits of vitamin D, it’s clear that we all need a big dose of the sunshine vitamin in our lives.
For children, adults and seniors alike, vitamin D helps us at every step of the way to ensure optimum physical and mental health.
So, if you think that you might not be getting enough from sunlight alone, you should start taking a daily vitamin D3 supplement.
And, to find out what other supplements are a must for your medicine cabinet, check out our honest supplement guide!