Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on January 25, 2022
Vitamin D and Depression
Experts aren’t sure if a lack of it leads to depression or if it’s the other way around. But studies show a link between the two. Research is ongoing to see if raising your vitamin D levels can help with symptoms and boost your mood.
Fight the Flu
Scientists are still figuring out exactly how well vitamin D can treat or even keep you from getting the virus. One study showed taking vitamin D drops in the winter helped lower the number of Japanese schoolchildren who got the flu. It’s clear it’s an important part of a healthy immune system. Your body can’t fight germs well if it doesn’t have enough.
Studies show vitamin D may lower your chance of getting MS. It’s a disease where your immune system attacks the central nervous system. If you already have it, some studies show vitamin D can ease your symptoms or even slow the disease’s growth.
There’s no solid proof vitamin D supplements lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. But there’s hope it might head off heart failure. Researchers are looking into it.
Vitamin D may curb your chances of certain cancers, like colon, breast, and prostate. The rates are even better when paired with calcium. In one clinical trial, African Americans’ risk went down 23% when they took vitamin D supplements.
Healthy vitamin D levels can slow bone loss. It also helps ward off osteoporosis and lowers your chance of broken bones. Doctors use vitamin D to treat osteomalacia. That’s a condition that causes soft bones, bone loss, and bone pain.
A Link to Weight Loss
Want to shed pounds? Try vitamin D supplements. Taken with calcium, it can keep you from feeling hungry as often. This means you eat fewer calories.
Vitamin D Deficiency
About 4 out of 10 people don’t get enough vitamin D. If yours is low, you might not eat enough foods with it. Or you might have a health condition that stops you from absorbing it. Or you might just need more sunlight.
You Are What You Eat
A tablespoon of cod liver oil has a whopping 1,360 IU of vitamin D. If that doesn’t sound tasty to you, try foods like swordfish, salmon, tuna, and sardines. Orange juice and dairy products such as yogurt and milk are good choices, too. So are beef liver, egg yolks, and fortified cereals.
Soak Up the Sun
It’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s rays. But your body needs some sun to make vitamin D. Try 15-20 minutes of sun a day, three times a week.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Problems converting vitamin D from food or sunshine can set you up for a deficiency. Factors that increase your risk include:
Age 50 or older
A northern home
Overweight, obese, gastric bypass surgery
Milk allergy or lactose intolerance
Diseases that reduce nutrient absorption in the gut, such as Crohn's disease or celiac
Taking certain medications such as seizure meds
Using sunscreen can interfere with getting vitamin D, but abandoning sunscreen can significantly increase your risk for skin cancer. So it's worth looking for other sources of vitamin D in place of prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Neuropsychiatry: “Depression and Vitamin D Deficiency: Causality, Assessment, and Clinical Practice Implications.”
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren.”
International Journal of Molecular Sciences: “Vitamin D and Influenza—Prevention or Therapy?”
Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin D and MS: Is there any connection?” “Vitamin D.”
American Heart Association: “Vitamin D is good for the bones, but what about the heart?”
National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Vitamin D.”
European Journal of Endocrinology: “Effects of 6-month vitamin D supplementation on insulin sensitivity and secretion: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial.”
British Journal of Nutrition: “Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and fat mass loss in female very low-calcium consumers: potential link with a calcium-specific appetite control.”