“I’m gonna soak up the sun! I’m gonna tell everyone!”
…Was Sheryl Crow trying to tell us that she was excited about her vitamin D intake for the day? Well, maybe not exactly—though it is known as the “sunshine vitamin.”
Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight and can also be found in several foods and supplements. This vitamin is key for building a healthy body and offers these 6 critical benefits for physical and mental health:
- Strengthens bones. As explained by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, vitamin D is necessary for building strong bones and muscles. “Without vitamin D, our bodies cannot effectively absorb calcium, which is essential to good bone health,” their official website states. In fact, studies have shown that vitamin D is essential for bone health—with insufficient intakes resulting not only in the diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia but also in increased bone metabolism and enhanced fracture risk.
- Fights diseases and viruses. Research has found that vitamin D can help prevent certain diseases such as osteopororis, rickets, heart disease and cancers. Additionally, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has even found that vitamin D may help reduce your likelihood of developing the flu.
- Reduces depression. Exposure to sunlight is believed to increase the brain’s release of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin. Several experts have explored the correlation between vitamin D deficiency and depression. In fact, one study found that those suffering from depression noticed an improvement in their symptoms after taking a vitamin D supplement.
- Boosts weight loss. One study revealed that individuals with higher levels of belly fat and larger waistlines are more likely to have lower vitamin D levels. Some theories claim that a reason may be that overweight and obese people tend to consume fewer vitamin D-rish foods, whereas others say they may expose less skin and limit vitamin D absorption from the sun. Another study found that people taking a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement were able to lose more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement.
- Fights inflammation. “Emerging evidence from clinical studies has indicated that vitamin D deficiency is associated with several inflammatory diseases,” states ones article. These inflammatory diseases include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Strengthens muscles. Studies are currently analyzing the positive effect of vitamin D in connection with muscle function. Certain findings have shown that vitamin D is especially critical in building strength amongst the elderly population, which would ultimately help:
- Decrease an individual’s likelihood of falls
- Reduce aches and pains
- Promote healthy joints
Recommended daily dosages of vitamin D
As reported by the National Institutes of Health, the daily amount of vitamin D micrograms (mcg) or International Units (IU) you need each day depends on your age:
- Birth to 1 year: 10 mcg (400 IU)
- Children 1–13 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)
- Teens 14–18 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)
- Adults 19–70 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)
- Adults 71 years and older: 20 mcg (800 IU)
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women: 15 mcg (600 IU)
Sources of vitamin D
Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. However, additional sources of vitamin D can be found in dietary supplements and foods such as:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Fortified milk
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms, risk factors and health risks
Experts have warned that a vitamin D deficiency may not show any symptoms. However, several risk factors may increase your likelihood of a deficiency including:
- Staying indoors
- Having dark skin
- Being elderly
- Being overweight or obese
Long-term lack of sufficient vitamin D may increase the risk of health problems such as osteoporosis. In order to determine an individual’s vitamin D levels, Unicity Healthcare shares that a blood test would be needed.
The team at Unicity Healthcare urges seniors and their caregivers to ensure they are taking their recommended daily doses of Vitamin D.