Vitamin D Benefits

A precursor to a certain kind of hormone involved in calcium regulation, vitamin D is produced when sunlight strikes the skin. Also acquired through some dietary sources like fortified milk and fatty fish, the recommended daily allowance 600 IU per day. Vitamin D benefits include strong healthy bones, possibly a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, and a few other (less well studied) benefits.

The primary use of vitamin D by the body is to maintain strong and healthy bones. Vitamin D is converted by the kidneys into calcitriol, a hormone that regulates calcium in the body. As a result, low vitamin D levels in adults can lead to a condition of soft, breakable bones called osteomalacia. This is the primary result of vitamin D deficiency, and is easily avoidable with supplementation. In children, this same deficiency leads to a deformity called rickets, which results in bowed legs and lumpy joints.

There has been a lot of interest in recent years in vitamin D as a possible way to reduce the risk of cancer. Several studies have found a correlation between high cancer levels, and those who live in countries with less available sunlight. Some specific studies have also found specific links, such as a higher risk of breast cancer (by 45%) in women who were deficient in vitamin D.

However, there are conflicting studies. Others have reported no correlation at all. As a result, it isn’t recommended as a cancer fighter per se, although the recommended daily allowance recently gone up from 400 to 600 IU per day for adults and pregnant and lactating women.

In addition to the possible cancer benefits, vitamin D may also help protect the cardiovascular system from common diseases like heart attack and stroke. Although, again,studies are often conflicting.

There are also a multitude of lesser known benefits with very little research to support them. A few studies have suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and childhood obesity. Others have suggested that low vitamin D levels at the beginning of a weight loss program may predict the success rate of the program. However, the causal connection is unknown. It is well known that obesity causes low vitamin D levels, but if the inverse is true is still unknown.