Vitamin D: the benefits
There's a significant amount of emerging research to suggest vitamin D may help with specific health conditions.
Vitamin D and immunity
Vitamin D is crucial for activating and regulating infection-fighting T-cells. Vitamin D is needed to activate the transformation into the killer cells that help destroy alien pathogens, or the cells that help the immune system 'remember' a given pathogen, so it can deal with it more effectively if it is encountered again.
Other breakthroughs show vitamin D not only helps to ward off infection and disease but also protects against autoimmune conditions. Vitamin D helps stop the body from attacking healthy tissues by triggering the development of regulatory T-cells – these help to recognise the difference between foreign invaders and 'self', so the immune system does not attack its own cells.
Vitamin D and muscles
Muscle weakness can occur due to vitamin D deficiency, manifesting itself in a feeling of heaviness in the legs, difficulty mounting stairs and raising from a chair, and tiring easily. But a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that this is reversible through nutrition.
Vitamin D and mood
One of the most talked about symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is feeling low or possibly displaying symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). As the nights draw in, sufferers take no pleasure in everyday activities, feel irritable and lethargic, sleep more, find it harder to get up and crave sugary carbohydrates.
As ever more research is conducted into the role vitamin D may play in mood, it's becoming clearer just how essential this vitamin can be for many people.
Vitamin D and exercise
If you're an athlete, or just fitness-conscious, knowing your vitamin D status should be on your priority list. Recent research suggests that there could be a link between your sports performance and how optimal your vitamin D levels are.
In one study in the Journal of Sport Sciences, researchers created a trial that looked at the effects of supplementation on a group of UK athletes and non-athletes. Initially, they found that 62% of athletes and 73% of non-athletes had vitamin D deficiency.
When the same groups were given 5000IU of vitamin D a day for 8 weeks, it not only significantly increased their vitamin D levels, but it also had an impact on their physical performance. For instance, those who were given the supplement found a significant improvement in their 10m sprint time and vertical jump height. Find out more about vitamin D and exercise here.
Vitamin D and bone health
Although vitamin D is essential for every age, it may be especially important for babies and children to get a sufficient amount. This is because vitamin D can helps maintain optimal calcium levels to support the growth and development of healthy teeth and bones in young children.
Children who don't get enough vitamin D may be at risk of developing osteomalacia - the softening of the bones. Osteomalacia can lead to bowing of the bones, particularly of the larger bones (such as leg bones).
Making sure you get enough vitamin D for bone health isn't limited to just children: it's also important for the elderly. One study, published in the International Journal of Gerontology, looked at the effects of vitamin D supplementation in combination with low-level exercise amongst the elderly, and found that this combination was effective at reducing falls in the elderly participants.
For more information on how vitamin D can help support your overall health and wellbeing, head to our advice centre.