With the summer sun shining brightly across much of the country it’s easier than ever to get your fill of vitamin D, or the “Sunshine Vitamin”, as it is often called. Our bodies produce Vitamin D naturally through direct exposure to sunlight, though you can also get the vitamin through various foods and supplements. The National Institutes of Health recommends getting the vitamin through a combination of all three so as to avoid becoming vitamin D deficient.
So why does vitamin D matter? It has a surprising number of health benefits. It is perhaps most well known for promoting healthy bones and teeth through enhancing the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. But new research is showing the vitamin goes well beyond just promoting healthy bones. Here are four surprising benefits of Vitamin D you may not have heard of before:
Combats High Blood Pressure
According to a study conducted by Boston University, patients with high blood pressure whose vitamin D levels were increased over a three month period saw their blood pressure levels brought back to normal levels. After a period of nine months with increased levels of vitamin D, researches continued to see benefits to their blood pressure. Research suggests that vitamin D inhibits the production of the hormone renin, which is believed to contribute to high blood pressure, thus helping to reduce abnormally high blood pressure levels.
Inhibits cancer cell growth
According to the National Cancer Institute, “vitamin D has been found to have several activities that might slow or prevent the development of cancer, including promoting cellular differentiation, decreasing cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death, and reducing tumor blood vessel formation.” While much research still needs to be done, vitamin D has shown promise in its ability to reduce the risk of certain cancers through the aforementioned methods.
Reduces Risk of Insulin Resistance and Elevated Blood Sugar
In a study published by the American Diabetes Association, a deficiency in vitamin D in middle-aged men and women was found to be associated with an increased risk of developing insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels. According to Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine, vitamin D “also stimulates your pancreas to make insulin.” So not only does vitamin D work to reduce insulin resistance, but it helps promote sufficient production of it in the pancreas.
Regulates your immune system
New evidence has emerged showing that vitamin D provides an extra boost to the immune system. According to the National Public Institutes of Health, “The implications of vitamin D deficiency on the immune system have become clearer in recent years and in the context of vitamin D deficiency, there appears to be an increased susceptibility to infection and a diathesis, in a genetically susceptible host to autoimmunity.” Long thought to be only of benefit to the skeletal system, it is now clear that vitamin D plays an important role in a healthy immune system as well. Perhaps the ‘D’ could stand for ‘defense’, as the vitamin has various beneficial effects on the innate immune system.
As more research and studies are conducted, there will doubtless be more evidence for the wide variety of health benefits of this simple vitamin. In the meantime, ask your doctor for the best way to get your recommended dosage and make sure you’re getting it! We suggest spending 5-10 minutes in direct sunlight each day in addition to taking a daily supplement with at least 500 IU (for adults).