It’s called the sunshine vitamin because it’s produced in the skin in response to sunlight, but most of us in the Midwest simply do not get enough of it. In fact, an estimated one billion people worldwide have Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. This deficiency can have significant health consequences. Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, which means Vitamin D is needed at every level for the body to function properly.
One of the most important functions of Vitamin D in the body is good bone health, in that it regulates the absorption of the minerals calcium and phosphorous. Without adequate Vitamin D levels, we are at risk of developing bone abnormalities such as Osteoporosis, which causes our bones to become fragile, as well as Osteomalacia which causes our bones become soft.
New evidence has shown that certain receptors in your brain need Vitamin D to keep hunger and cravings under control, as well as to pump up levels of the mood-elevating chemical serotonin. It is thought that the hypothalamus (the very small part of your brain that regulates hormonal functions, amongst other things) senses low Vitamin D levels and responds by increasing the body weight set point as well as the release of hunger-stimulating hormones. At the cellular level, Vitamin D may also prevent the growth and maturation of fat cells.
In addition to its primary benefits, research suggests that vitamin D may also play a role in:
- reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
- decreasing your chance of developing heart disease, according to 2008 findings published in Circulation
- helping to reduce your likelihood of developing the flu, according to 2010 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Vitamin D may also affect our likelihood of developing different kinds of cancer. 70% of women with breast cancer are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D has been shown to prevent breast cancer cell growth and decrease the expression of cancer causing genes. JoEllen Welsh, a researcher with the State University of New York at Albany, has studied the effects of Vitamin D for 25 years. She believes Vitamin D may be just as powerful as the most mod