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The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

By Amy Hundley, RD, LD

Are you experiencing the warning signs of vitamin D deficiency?
In this article, we will review the newest research regarding vitamin D.

The Health Benefits of Vitamin DWHY THE NEED FOR VITAMIN D:
First off, this vitamin helps absorb calcium and regulates proper calcium levels in the blood. In essence, if we didn’t have vitamin D, our bodies couldn’t absorb calcium which sends messages to the nerves to tell muscles when to contract. Hence the role for proper muscle and bone maintenance. To go even further, not only does vitamin D work with calcium for healthy bones and muscles, but also with the mineral phosphorus. These three soldiers work synergistically to give you strength to keep your bones and muscles activated. Lastly, vitamin D is extremely important for regulating cell growth needed for cell-to-cell communication, therefore, leading to the health of the brain and immune system.

SIGNS OF DEFICIENCY:
Feeling achey or fragile? A vitamin D deficiency has been seen in up to 80% of hip fracture patients. Feeling gloomy and blue? This sunny nutrient helps encourage serotonin, the hormone associated with mood elevation. Additionally, in my clinical experience, patients who suffer from depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder see positive effects in mood and motivation levels when they simply increase their dietary intake or when started on a supplement. Don’t just take my word for it, science backs it up! For example, a 2008 research study from Norway found that people with a low level of vitamin D in their blood had more symptoms of depression. This research also found that taking vitamin D, particularly in large amounts, improved the symptoms of depression. The biggest effect happened in those people with more severe symptoms.

NEWEST RESEARCH:
Findings suggest vitamin D may have a pivotal role in preventing cognitive decline. For example, one European study, led by neuroscientist David Lewellyn of the University of Cambridge, assessed vitamin D levels in more than 1,700 men and women from England aged 65 and older. The scientists found that the lower the subjects’ vitamin D levels, the more negatively impacted their performance on an array of mental tests along with exhibiting slower information processing speed. Next, studies done on both animals and humans confirm that vitamin D receptors and enzymes have been found present and active in the hippocampus and cerebellum – two intriguing brain regions. More importantly, these specific regions of the brain are all involved with planning, processing, and the formation of new memories

DIETARY SOURCES:
The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight. Just 10-15 minutes a day. Of course, be careful not to get too much sun as you can risk a bad sunburn or possibly skin cancer. Using sunscreen after the 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight is important to do.If you have had skin cancer or have other skin care conditions, please check with your health care provider on the amount of direct sunlight you should receive.

Other dietary sources include: salmon, mackerel, shrimp, cod liver oil, milk, egg yolks (order your eggs sunny side up), butter, and fortified cereals.

Overall, don’t deprive yourself of this vitamin! Vitamin D plays a vital role in your health. Please talk with your health care provider about the proper dose of vitamin D as it’s important to take the right amount. There are tremendous health benefits you will enjoy with this powerhouse vitamin!

Amy Hundley is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, licensed in both Kansas & Missouri. She holds two baccalaureate degrees in Dietetics & Public Health Nutrition and is currently practicing as a clinical RD for HCA Midwest Health. For questions or comments, please email Amy at amyhundley05@gmail.com.

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