Benefits of Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone that plays a significant role in generating human health. Believe it or not, almost 50% of Americans are vitamin D deficient because our modern lifestyles don’t give us access to the sun in peak UVB hours of the day. As a result, the risk of various diseases skyrockets. Let’s explore vitamin D deficiency and how you can top up your stores to give your body a chance to thrive.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
What is Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency means that your body does not have adequate vitamin D to function properly. The baseline number recommended as a daily intake to not be considered ‘deficient’ varies but generally remains low between 400 and 800 IUs.
This daily recommended baseline intake to clear someone of deficiency is, like all RDIs, essentially the benchmark for survival. It does not address the levels that start to mitigate illness or to thrive truly.
Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent, affecting nearly 50% of Americans.1 Although the sun is a primary source of vitamin D synthesis through the skin, many people do not get adequate intake via the sun. This is because most live and work indoors and do not spend enough time every day exposing their bare skin to the sunshine. Many people also live far enough from the equator that vitamin D is unavailable year-round.
As a result, vitamin D deficiency is widespread. This matters because vitamin D, a hormone, plays a large role in various conditions.
The Role of Vitamin D in Various Health Conditions
Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to depression. A meta-analysis by the University of Cambridge has made various links between the two.2 The study participants with depression also had low vitamin D markers compared to the control group. Those with low vitamin D levels were indeed more susceptible to depression.
Although the link is not yet completely understood, studies are increasingly connecting the dots between nutritional deficiencies and depression.3 Vitamin D receptors are also located in the same region of the brain that is associated with depression.4
Despite the total lack of understanding behind the mechanism of vitamin D deficiency and depression, studies show that vitamin D may indeed ease symptoms in those with clinical depression.5
Dietary vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Evidence suggests that vitamin D can help improve glucose tolerance and insulin resistance.6 Low vitamin D levels cause the body to secrete insulin, which promotes insulin resistance. Supplementation of vitamin D in animals may help to restore insulin sensitivity.7
One study in infants linked 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day to a 78% reduced risk of type 1 diabetes.8 This study suggests that adequate vitamin D supplementation for infants could reverse the increasing trend in type 1 diabetes incidence.8
High Blood Pressure
A meta-analysis of 35 studies and 155,000 people demonstrates that high vitamin D concentrations resulted in lower blood pressure levels and a reduced risk of hypertension.9
Researchers have found for every 10 percent increase in concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D; there is an 8.1 percent decrease in the risk of hypertension. One study demonstrated that with supplementation of vitamin D, 71% of patients were no longer hypertensive one year later.10
Higher serum levels of vitamin D in the blood are associated with dramatically reduced colon, breast, ovarian, renal, pancreatic, aggressive prostate, and other cancers. Vitamin D has promising links to cancer prevention.11 One study links the combination of 1,100 IU per day with calcium in reducing cancer risks by 60%.12
Studies highlight that improving vitamin D levels may reduce cancer incidence and mortality with few or no adverse effects.13
Autoimmune/ General Immunity
Vitamin D significantly generates immune health because this hormone has many biological processes that regulate immune responses.14 This is especially important for those dealing with autoimmune conditions, as vitamin D deficiency has been widely considered a contributing factor to autoimmunity. This is due to its various immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-fibrotic actions.15
Whether you are looking to heal from autoimmune issues or bolster your immune strength, having high vitamin D levels is non-negotiable.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Ideally, individuals should stay on top of their vitamin D levels preventatively, which can be done via a blood test. However, the reality is that many people don’t engage in preventative checks. Being vigilant of vitamin D deficiency signs can be a useful tool to know when you may need to supplement.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency present themselves differently from person to person but include:16
- Getting sick regularly (low immune system function)
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bone and back pain
- Muscle pain
- Mood changes (like depression)
- Slow wound healing
- Bone density loss
- Hair loss
Getting Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is widespread. Almost half of the American population is considered to be deficient in this crucial nutrient. Some people are more at risk of deficiency, including those who spend most or much of their day indoors, are darker darker-skinned, and live farther from the equator.
Getting enough vitamin D requires mindfulness because there are many interferences in getting enough vitamin D from the sun. Firstly, vitamin D is only available during hours of the day that contain UVB light. This is present year-round in areas near the equator but is unavailable during colder months in regions with stark seasons.
Even when there are UVB rays present, our skin can only synthesize vitamin D when exposed to bare skin.
Sunscreen, clothes, or being in the shade will block vitamin D synthesis on the skin. Those with more melanin (darker skin) will take longer to synthesize vitamin D than those with lighter skin, meaning they must get more sun exposure to get the same amount of vitamin D. On the flip side, those with less melanin (lighter skin) will also burn more quickly, meaning there has to be more attention to ‘sun safety’ to prevent the DNA damage that occurs with a sunburn.
Vitamin D can also be consumed orally, through food and supplementation.
Foods high in vitamin D include liver, egg yolks, oily fish, and red meat. It’s important to note that vitamin D levels in food will reflect how much time the animals spent outside, living natural animal lives (wild or pasture-raised/ organically fed).
A supplementation is an excellent tool for virtually everyone who wants to optimize their health and immunity.
The baseline vitamin D recommendations from the government are low, hovering around 400 IUs. Physicians have been using mega-doses of vitamin D (of 4,000 IUs to up to 40,000 IUs), with great success.
A quality vitamin D supplement will combine vitamin D2 with vitamin K2.
The combination enhances the benefits and bioavailability of both nutrients. The vitamin K2 should ideally be the “MK-7”, a highly bioavailable type of K2. Vitamin D should be naturally derived, which is more absorbable than synthetic. Finally, the combination should be in an organic oil base (like olive oil) to promote proper absorption and synthesis.
Vitamin D is a hormone synthesized from the sun. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread because many people live and work indoors and do not spend enough time exposing their bare skin to UVB rays daily.
Vitamin D is crucial in mitigating illness and impacts various disease models, including depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, autoimmunity, and immune health in general. Getting enough vitamin D generally requires a combination of mindful exposure to UVB rays, consuming vitamin D-rich foods (like liver and egg yolks), and regular supplementation.
Speaking of supplements… Most vitamin D supplements are just that: vitamin D., But there’s more to strengthening your immune system than a simple vitamin D pill. That’s why we recommend a supplement like DV3 by Systemic Formulas. DV3 is a unique blend of bioavailable D3, heart-healthy beta-glucan, anti-inflammatory vitamin E, turmeric, calcium, and magnesium.
So, not only will DV3 help increase crucial vitamin D levels, and it will help lower inflammation and keep your system strong.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based on the opinions of The Cell Health team. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended to share knowledge and information from the research and experience of the Cell Health team. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD, for the accuracy of the information provided. Still, we encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and in partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
- Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2020 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/
- Anglin, Rebecca E. S., et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression in Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” British Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 202, no. 2, 2013, pp. 100–107., doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.106666.
- Rao, T S Sathyanarayana et al. “Understanding nutrition, depression, and mental illnesses.” Indian journal of psychiatry vol. 50,2 (2008): 77-82. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.42391
- Eyles, Darryl W et al. “Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1 alpha-hydroxylase in human brain.” Journal of chemical neuroanatomy vol. 29,1 (2005): 21-30. doi:10.1016/j.jchemneu.2004.08.006
- Shaffer, Jonathan A et al. “Vitamin D supplementation for depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Psychosomatic medicine vol. 76,3 (2014): 190-6. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000044
- Parekh D, Sarathi V, Shivane VK, Bandgar TR, Menon PS, Shah NS: Pilot study to evaluate the effect of short-term improvement in vitamin D status on glucose tolerance in patients with type 2 diabetes. Endocr Pract 16:600–608, 2010
- Bourlon PM, Billaudel B, Faure-Dussert A Influence of vitamin D3 deficiency and 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 on de novo insulin biosynthesis in the islets of the rat endocrine pancreas. J Endocrinol 160:87–95, 1999
- Hyppönen, E et al. “Intake of vitamin D and risk of type 1 diabetes: a birth-cohort study.” Lancet (London, England) vol. 358,9292 (2001): 1500-3. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)06580-1
- “Is Vitamin D Deficiency Causing Your High Blood Pressure?” Is Vitamin D Deficiency Causing Your High Blood Pressure? | Oklahoma Heart Institute, oklahomaheart.com/blog/vitamin-d-deficiency-causing-your-high-blood-pressure-0.
- Mirhosseini, Naghmeh et al. “The Association between Serum 25(OH)D Status and Blood Pressure in Participants of a Community-Based Program Taking Vitamin D Supplements.” Nutrients vol. 9,11 1244. 14 Nov. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9111244
- Garland, Cedric F et al. “Vitamin D for cancer prevention: global perspective.” Annals of epidemiology vol. 19,7 (2009): 468-83. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2009.03.021
- Lappe, Joan M et al. “Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 85,6 (2007): 1586-91. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.6.1586
- Garland, Cedric F et al. “The role of vitamin D in cancer prevention.” American journal of public health vol. 96,2 (2006): 252-61. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2004.045260
- Yang, Chen-Yen et al. “The implication of vitamin D and autoimmunity: a comprehensive review.” Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology vol. 45,2 (2013): 217-26. doi:10.1007/s12016-013-8361-3
- Murdaca, Giuseppe et al. “Emerging role of vitamin D in autoimmune diseases: An update on evidence and therapeutic implications.” Autoimmunity reviews vol. 18,9 (2019): 102350. doi:10.1016/j.autrev.2019.102350
- “Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15050-vitamin-d–vitamin-d-deficiency.