So you probably know a lot about the benefits of vitamin D, commonly dubbed the sunshine vitamin. Yes, it is is an essential micronutrient produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. And, generally speaking, you know that most people require 10-30 minutes of decent exposure to sunlight, 3-4 times a week in order to naturally synthesize enough vitamin D.
However, what you may not know is that factors such as genetics, where your patients live also play and how they live influences the body’s ability to maintain an optimum levels of vitamin D.
While the role of vitamin D in the regulation of calcium and phosphorus (and by implication, the development of healthy bones and teeth) is also well-documented and accepted, this is not its only benefit. Here are five more reasons why helping your patients maintain optimal levels of this sunshine vitamin is important for health.
Autism is a neurological condition characterized by lifelong developmental disabilities such as difficulty in communication and social interaction. According to a recent study from the University of Queensland, vitamin D might be able to help. Using the most accepted developmental model for autism, in which the affected mice show deficits in basic learning, social interaction and stereotyped behaviors, the researchers found that “pregnant females treated with active vitamin D in the equivalent of the first trimester of pregnancy produced offspring that did not develop these deficits.”
In human studies, the researchers also found that pregnant women with low levels of vitamin D had an increased chance of having a child with autistic traits. Thus, it is believed that maintaining an optimum level of vitamin D may support brain health and function in children at risk.
Low vitamin D levels may be one of the key reasons why acute respiratory infections such as colds and flu are common during spring and winter. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, vitamin D plays a critical role in enhancing immunity against viral, acute respiratory infections.
According to the study, which accommodated about 11,000 participants across 14 countries, a daily supplementation of vitamin D at a concentration of about 25 nmol/L reduced the risk of acute respiratory infections by 50 percent. And although the exact mechanism behind this is still unclear, it is believed that vitamin D achieves this protective capability by increasing the levels of antimicrobial peptides in the lungs.
Maintaining a healthy weight is more important now than ever and as it turns out, vitamin D may play a role. There’s a strong link between obesity and low levels of vitamin D, which implies that individuals with large waist lines and excessive abdominal fat tend to suffer from vitamin D deficiency. In a 2018 study that examined the impact of vitamin D on weight loss in overweight women over a period of one year, it was observed that the women who received vitamin D supplementation lost 7 pounds more than the women who didn’t.
In a similar study, it was also observed that vitamin D supplementation decreased the level of total body fat at the end of a 12-week observational period in women who received vitamin D supplementation
Blood Sugar Levels
The relationship between vitamin D and diabetes has been investigated by several studies and bulk of these studies concluded that an optimum concentration of vitamin D in the blood does help in maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels.
In one study carried out on infants, it was observed that a vitamin D supplementation of 2,000 IU per day resulted in an 88% reduced chance of developing type-1 diabetes by age 32. In another study that monitored 903 individuals for 12 years, it was observed that those who had inadequate vitamin D levels were five times more likely to have type-2 diabetes than those with optimum levels
Probably another commonly overlooked benefit of vitamin D is that it may help gestating women go through pregnancy successfully. Low levels of vitamin D in pregnant women have been associated with gestational diabetes – a major cause of complications during pregnancy.
But, according to a study published in Journal of Research and Medical Sciences, vitamin D supplementation in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy helped in managing gestational diabetes mellitus, thereby increasing the chance of carrying a successful pregnancy.
The sunshine vitamin, as it appears, not only helps strengthens bones, it beams its light of health on much, much more.
Stephanie Vuillermot et al. Vitamin D treatment during pregnancy prevents autism-related phenotypes in a mouse model of maternal immune activation. Molecular Autism Brain, Cognition and Behavior 2017; 8:9. doi:10.1186/s13229-017-0125-0
Martineau Adrian R, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017; 356:i6583
Mason C, Xiao L, et al. Vitamin D3 supplementation during weight loss: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;99(5):1015-25. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.073734.
Salehpour A, et al. A 12-week double-blind randomized clinical trial ofvitamin D₃ supplementation on body fat mass in healthy overweight and obesewomen. Nutr J. 2012;11:78. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-78.
Vitamin D. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Center. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-D
Shahgheibi S, Farhadifar F, Pouya B. The effect of vitamin D supplementation on gestational diabetes in high-risk women: Results from a randomized placebo-controlled trial. J Res Med Sci. 2016;21:2. doi:10.4103/1735-1995.175148