The Importance of Vitamin D

I always see vitamin D supplements being advertised but not enough quality information being put out about the benefits of it. 

It’s well known that vitamin D (along with calcium) is important for bone health for both adults and kids. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasized the importance of kids getting enough calcium and vitamin D rich foods. Foods that have a rich source of vitamin D include milk, eggs, fish, vegetables, and whole grain cereal. Receiving vitamin D from a nutritious diet is key to establish a foundation for healthy bone development and maintenance.

There's a lot more to Vitamin D than meets the eye. It serves a variety of functions in the body. Unfortunately, most of us don't get enough vitamin D on a daily basis, with a reported one billion people worldwide having a deficiency.

Here are three benefits of having optimal vitamin D levels in your body:

1. Vitamin D supports your skeletal system.

When you think of strong bones, calcium often comes to mind. Calcium is the major player when it comes to bone health and increasing bone mineral density, but don't overlook the importance of vitamin D.

Previous research has shown that vitamin D is a strong simulator of calcium deposition in bones, making them stronger and healthier. If you're not getting enough vitamin D, your body begins to slow or stop depositing calcium into bones, eventually drawing calcium out from your bones back into the bloodstream. Over time, this constant cycle of deposit and withdrawal will make your bones weak and at high risk for fractures as you age

2. Vitamin D helps you recover faster after exercise. 

The day after a good workout can make sitting a little difficult or washing your hair a challenge. Feelings of soreness, stiffness, and fatigue will affect performing the days following too. Vitamin D definitely helps this situation. Studies show that having adequate levels of vitamin D levels helps recovery after exercise. 

Additionally, vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in athletes and is associated with muscle weakness and atrophy, specifically Type 2 muscle fiber atrophy. Skipping out on this vitamin is just as bad as skipping out on leg day.

3. Vitamin D aids in keeping your arteries healthy. 

Arterial health effects heart health along with other factors such as diet, weight, and stress. Scientific literature supports the link between vitamin D inadequacy and poor arterial health.

One of the reasons may be that vitamin D is necessary for blood vessels to maintain their normal function and flexibility. Arteries are blood vessels that act like highways in our bodies, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients to various organs. Aging as well as lifestyle and dietary factors can cause arteries to stiffen, lose their flexibility, and even harden. This could lead to an increase risk of  cardiovascular disease.

A simple way to help avoid this is by getting enough vitamin D. 

When looking for a vitamin D supplement, choose the D3 form. Gel caps are a great option. Liquids are good too. How much you take depends on many factors. How much sunlight you get, ethnicity, where you live and the type of clothing you wear. If you really want to dial it in, get your levels tested. 

How much of this overlooked vitamin should you be getting a day? Currently, the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board is the governing body that sets guidelines for intakes of all kinds of nutrients, including vitamin and minerals. The recommended daily allowance (or RDA) for vitamin D is currently 600 IU per day for men and women between the ages of 9 and 70.

However, it is likely that this value is an underestimation. The currently established upper intake level is 4,000 IU per day, but research has reported no adverse health effects to taking 6,000 IU per day.

Keep in mind that the RDA value is primarily based off of outcomes centered around bone health, without taking all of the other beneficial things that vitamin D does into account. The take home point is that you should be much more worried about getting too little vitamin D than too much.