Skip to content

5 benefits of vitamin D that make it a "super vitamin"

5 Vorzüge von Vitamin D, die es zu einem “Supervitamin” machen

Recent research shows that the benefits of vitamin D go far beyond what we once believed

Just a few years ago, vitamin D was known simply as the "bone vitamin" and even today many doctors still believe it is only essential for bone health.

However, science shows otherwise: inadequate vitamin D levels increase the risk of many types of diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis and even influenza (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), but in this article we will focus on the beneficial properties of vitamin D.

That's why we're going to look at some of the amazing benefits of vitamin D, which will help you quickly understand why I believe vitamin D is a supplement that everyone should use every day.

What is vitamin D?

As mentioned earlier, it was once believed that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels was only important for bone health. Thanks to the hard work of many scientists, including the esteemed Dr. Michael Holick, we now know that almost every tissue type in the body and every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors (9), which means that vitamin D is an essential vitamin that plays a crucial role in a variety of physiological processes (10).

When we ingest vitamin D, or when it is produced in the skin as a result of exposure to UV light from the sun, it is first converted to its active form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, or vitamin D3 (11). This compound then interacts with almost every tissue type in your body including the heart, brain and fat cells. In addition, scientific research has shown that vitamin D regulates genes that control immune function, metabolism and even cell growth and development (12).

As you can see, this vitamin deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten over the past few decades. Fortunately, the important role of vitamin D and its amazing benefits are becoming more widely known and accepted.

Let's take a look at five of these benefits:

Vitamin D supports heart health

Vitamin D deficiency goes hand in hand with cardiovascular disease (13) and is considered an independent predictor of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes (14).

In a study, scientists examined the vitamin D levels of 1783 healthy middle-aged subjects (964 men and 819 women) and found that women with vitamin D levels in the top third of the subjects studied had a 68% lower risk of heart attacks compared to women with levels in the bottom third. In men, the scientists found a 44% lower risk in the top third compared to the bottom third (15).

Conversely, scientific studies show that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of dying from a heart attack by 42% (16) and increases the risk of stroke by 49 to 64% (17).

The reason that vitamin D plays such an important role in cardiovascular health is that the heart muscle and circulatory system are littered with vitamin D receptors (18), suggesting how much they need this vitamin to maintain optimal health and function.

Thus, it is not surprising that scientific research has shown that supplementation with adequate amounts of vitamin D improves heart health in several ways:

  • Vitamin D reduces triglyceride levels in the blood (19) - a type of fat that can increase the risk of heart disease if levels get too high.
  • Vitamin D improves blood pressure and blood flow by relaxing blood vessels (20).
  • Vitamin D improves endothelial function (21) - the thin layer of cells that lines the inner surface of blood vessels and the lymphatic system.
  • Vitamin D improves cholesterol levels (22).

The scientific data is clear: maintaining optimal vitamin D levels has profound effects on cardiovascular health.

Vitamin D helps to maintain insulin sensitivity

Scientific research shows that vitamin D deficiency doubles the risk of reaching prediabetic levels of insulin resistance and ultimately developing type 2 diabetes (23).

Simply making sure you have adequate amounts of vitamin D in your blood can dramatically reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but scientific research shows that it can even help people who struggle with insulin-related problems.

In one study, adult diabetics who supplemented 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day over a 16-week period showed dramatically improved glucose control, better insulin response and better hemoglobin A1c levels (24). Another study using 1,000 IU of vitamin D showed similar results (25).

Maintaining insulin sensitivity not only helps maintain optimal overall health, but also supports muscle building. Scientific research shows that vitamin D has other muscle-building properties: it enhances the muscle-building effects of leucine (26).

Vitamin D keeps the brain healthy

Scientific studies show that insufficient vitamin D levels increase the risk of a decline in cognitive function, including diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia (27).

This is because the brain is littered with vitamin D receptors and relies on vitamin D to fight many destructive processes (28). In addition, vitamin D plays a crucial role in the growth of new nerve cells, the transmission of nerve impulses and the maintenance of brain plasticity, which is essential for functions related to learning and memory (29).

Vitamin D is so effective in the brain that scientific studies have shown that it can reverse neurodegenerative decline associated with Alzheimer's disease (30) and prevent the progression of Parkinson's disease (31).

Vitamin D can protect against cancer

Having high levels of vitamin D can dramatically reduce the risk of developing various types of cancer including breast cancer, thyroid cancer and bladder cancer (32, 33, 34).

This correlation is related to the fact that vitamin D receptors regulate a number of processes associated with the immune response to cancer cells, tumor growth and inflammation (35).

The anti-carcinogenic effects of vitamin D have been observed in studies showing that vitamin D supplementation reduced the tumor growth-promoting properties of estrogens (36), reduced the incidence of prostate cancer tumors (37), and lowered levels of the tumor-promoting protein beta-catenin (38), while increasing levels of the tumor-suppressing protein APC.

Vitamin D helps maintain the health of the immune system

Immune cells rely on vitamin D to regulate their responses to threats to the body. This involves first attacking and destroying these threats, followed by a process of "cleaning up" and then returning to a passive state of waiting (39).

This is the reason why scientific research shows that low vitamin D levels promote and accelerate the development and progression of autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes (40), psoriasis (41), rheumatoid arthritis (42) and multiple sclerosis (43).

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread

It is estimated that nearly one billion people worldwide have inadequate vitamin D levels to support optimal health (44).

According to current medical standards, there are three levels of vitamin D status, which are determined by blood tests (45):

  • Adequate means having at least 30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood.
  • Insufficient means that between 21 and 29 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood are present.
  • Deficiency means that there are less than 20 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood.

Scientific research shows that 25% of all Americans have inadequate vitamin D levels and 39% are deficient in vitamin D, which means that 64% of all Americans have inadequate vitamin D levels (46). Studies from Europe show similar results.

Why is this? Why do so many people have low vitamin D levels? Well, one of the main reasons for this is the fact that it is very difficult to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food alone and unless you sunbathe every day, your only option is vitamin D supplementation.

How much vitamin D do you need?

According to the American Institute of Medicine, 600 IU per day is sufficient for people aged 1 to 70 years and 800 IU per day for people aged 71 years and older (47), but these figures have been heavily criticized by scientists specializing in vitamin D research (48). They point to over 125 peer-reviewed studies suggesting that such recommendations are too low and are likely to lead to vitamin D deficiency.

A committee of the U.S. Endocrine Society recently reviewed the available scientific data and concluded that 600 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day is adequate for people 1 to 18 years of age and 1,500 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D for people 19 years of age and older (49).

However, according to respected scientist Dr. Michael Holick, even 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day is suboptimal. Scientific research shows that 2,000 IU per day is the minimum necessary to maintain adequate vitamin D levels (30 ng/ml) (50), but Dr. Holick believes that optimal vitamin D status is actually between 50 and 80 ng/ml, which would require a daily intake of about 5,000 IU.

Considering that an overdose of vitamin D only occurs when more than 40,000 IU per day or 300,000 IU within 24 hours is taken over several months (51), this is a very safe recommendation.

I would recommend starting with 2,000 IU per day and then having the vitamin D level determined with the help of a blood test. There is a good chance that this will be below 50 to 80 ng/ml. Scientific research shows that you need to increase your vitamin D intake by 100 IU per day to increase blood levels by 1 ng/ml (52). So if your test showed a value of 30 ng/ml and you want to increase your blood levels to 50 ng/ml, this would mean that you need to increase your current vitamin D intake by 2,000 IU per day.

What are good sources of vitamin D?

As you may know, our bodies cannot produce enough vitamin D to maintain adequate blood levels (53). We need additional amounts supplied through diet or supplements or produced in the skin under the influence of sunlight. Let's look at these sources separately.

Vitamin D is difficult to find in nature. You will find very small amounts in various foods such as beef liver, cheese and egg yolk and slightly larger amounts in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, ranging from 150 to 450 IU per 100 grams. Cod liver oil is by far the best source of vitamin D, providing over 1,300 IU per tablespoon.

You will also find vitamin D in some vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice and margarine, but getting adequate vitamin D intake from these foods alone is nearly impossible.

When you expose your skin to UVB rays, these rays interact with a form of cholesterol in the body to produce vitamin D. The more skin is exposed to the sun and the stronger the sun exposure, the more vitamin D is produced.

Scientific studies show that when 25% of the body's skin is exposed to the midday sun in summer, 400 IU of vitamin D can be produced in just 3 to 6 minutes (54). So to achieve optimal levels, you would need to sunbathe for at least 30 to 60 minutes every day - and who has the time for that?

For these reasons, I recommend vitamin D supplementation. It's cheap, convenient and allows you maximum flexibility with your diet.




By Michael Matthews

Previous article 6 supplements that fight inflammation