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Vitamin D: What's it good for?

Vitamin D: What's it good for? 

Around 40-75% of the world’s entire population is Vitamindeficient, meaning not too many of us are getting enough – after all, it’s hard to in today’s world, where we like to hang out indoors, work indoors, and slather on SPF 50 sunscreen when we go outside. The truth is, Vitamin D deficiency is quite common and quite harmful. Having enough of it is important when it comes to keeping us healthy, and when we don’t have enough of it, it can cause some nasty problems. 

Benefits of sufficient levels

So, first of all, what does Vitamin D do to help us? You might be familiar with its role in keeping bones healthy by helping our bodies absorb calcium. It’s also one of the strongest inhibitors of cancer cell growth, helps regulate blood pressure, prevents multiple sclerosis, and aids in colon health, not to mention recent studies suggesting its role in supporting depression.

Another noteworthy quality of Vitamin D is its ability to stimulate insulin production. A study published in 2013, in fact, reported that Vitamin D levels are directly related to blood sugar control and type 2 diabetes. The study found that subjects with type 2 diabetes had significantly lower levels of the vitamin than those without it. Also, as Vitamin D levels decreased, glycosylated hemoglobin levels increased, indicating higher blood sugar. This took place in both the diabetic subjects and the control group, leading to the conclusion that  “vitamin D levels [are] related to glycemic control in diabetes mellitus type 2,” and that taking Vitamin D supplements is likely to improve glycemic control. 

Risks of being deficient

A study published in 2013 by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology showed a correlation between Vitamin D levels and asthma. 90 percent of patients with severe asthma also had a Vitamin D deficiency (<20 ng/mL), compared to only 50 percent of those with sufficient levels (>30 ng/mL). Those with insufficient levels of Vitamin D had more than 5 times the risk of developing severe asthma, while high levels of Vitamin D reduced the chances of needing to be hospitalized by 10 percent. The study authors stated, “Our findings suggest that vitamin D insufficiency is common among our cohort of asthmatic adults. Lower vitamin D levels are associated with asthma severity.” 

Another recent study associated low Vitamin D levels with increased respiratory infections in athletes. Upper respiratory infections are the most common infectious illness in the general population and the leading acute diagnosis for physicians. At the end of the 16-week study, a significantly larger number of subjects who had upper respiratory infections had insufficient levels of Vitamin D than at the start of the study. Their Vitamin D levels also showed correlations with saliva secretion – which plays an important role in mucosal immunity – the higher the Vitamin D, the better the immunity. The study authors stated, “Low vitamin D status could be an important determinant of upper respiratory tract illness risk in endurance athletes and mucosal as well as systemic immunity may be modified via vitamin D-dependent mechanisms.”

The last study we’d like to cite discusses the relationship between Vitamin D and community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). Almost 17,000 subjects were studied for 1 year, finding that insufficient levels of Vitamin D (<30 ng/mL) was associated with a 56 percent increase in the likelihood of developing CAP, compared to subjects with levels >30 ng/mL. The investigators concluded, “Among 16,975 participants in NHANES III, 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were inversely associated with history of community-acquired pneumonia. Randomized controlled trials are warranted to determine the effect of optimizing vitamin D status on the risk of community-acquired pneumonia.” 

So, basically, if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one with type 2 diabetes, asthma, pneumonia, or an athlete at risk of developing a respiratory infection, there are a few easy ways to reduce your chances of these health risks or reduce their severity. Spend more time in the sunlight! Adjust your diet to include foods like fatty fish (salmon, tuna), mushrooms, cheese, egg yolks, or beef liver, all of which have high Vitamin D levels. If those aren’t for you, fish oil supplements contain Vitamin D as well as other omega-3’s that support a whole host of bodily functions. Call us at 970-377-9611 if you have any concerns, questions, or are interested in any of the supplements we offer here at the office!

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