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The Importance of Vitamin D

I’m simple, cheap and easy to obtain. There’s thought to be receptor for me in every single cell in the body. If you don’t have enough of me, you’re prone to developing a vast array of negative health consequences ranging from obesity and diabetes to psychiatric illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Who am I?

Vitamin D!

Activated in the skin by sunlight, Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients for human health. Here in Ireland where we are lucky to catch a glimpse of the sun’s rays from morning to night (and even if we do we tend to have every sq cm of skin concealed in layers upon layers of insulating fabrics to shield us from the cold) the majority of us go through life with suboptimal vitamin D levels (optimal range 40-80ng/ml).In 2007, researchers at Oregon State University found that nearly one billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient.

At this time of year, many of you are faced with the daunting challenge of fulfilling those ambitious New Year’s resolutions. Whether you’ve decided to finally fight the flab or just want to improve your general health to live a better quality of life, one of the best things you can do to get on track is to have your vitamin D levels checked and commence a supplement regimen. But why am I such an avid believer in the power of vitamin D? The research speaks for itself, Vitamin D will help you live healthier and stronger for longer!

Firstly, vitamin D is imperative for the maintenance of muscle mass and preventing the accumulation of fat in muscle. In 2011, the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that Vitamin D shortage was associated with increased fat infiltration in muscle. Supplementing with Vitamin D has also been shown to improve insulin sensitivity which can lower diabetes risk as well as helping with your fat loss goals. Vitamin D supplementation with calcium has also been shown to be extremely effective in lowering blood pressure in those who suffer from hypertension.

January tends to be a particularly tricky month to get through. Not only do we have the pressure of commencing our new endeavors to get in shape in 2013, we’re back to work after a relaxing break, flat broke, Baltic weather…I could go on. With all the stress, how could we possibly avoid a perennial visit from the influenza virus or Strep throat??

You got it….Vitamin D!

Vitamin C tends to steal the spotlight as the forerunner in the battle against invading bugs, but it’s about time Vitamin D got some credit! Vitamin D is essential in the activation of immune defenses. Suboptimal vitamin D levels have been shown to inhibit the ability of the body’s T cells to fight infectious micro-organisms. The valuable nutrient also helps to dampen down the ensuing inflammatory response which can be a major obstacle in the recovery process.

In 2011, a study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that Vitamin D plays a role in the prevention of infections and may be used as a first-line treatment for viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Reseach found that restoring optimal vitamin D levels benefited a variety of conditions including psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, wound infections, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, eczema and influenza.

If you’re an Invigorate Clinic client reading this then you’ll already know that we’re firm believers in the importance of Vitamin D for strength. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 showed that Vitamin D deficiency can lead to muscle weakness i.e abnormalities in muscle contraction and relaxation, affecting force production. Similarly, Vit D can reduce the breakdown of protein in the muscle. So if you want to get lean and strong and fit into that bikini (or speedos guys) by Summer, get some Vitamin D!

Hitting the beauty counter for a luxurious bottle of Crème de la HOW MUCH? Or a foundation promising to conceal every lump, bump, dark circle or fine line? Vitamin D has been shown to improve a variety of skin conditions including dandruff, psoriasis, severe acne, rosacea, eczema and dermatitis.

Do you have exams coming up or have children preparing for Junior or Leaving Cert this year? A study in Neurology in 2010 highlighted the importance of Vitamin D for optimal brain health. It is not surprising then that it also plays a role in fetal brain development. A plethora of research articles confirm that pregnant mothers deficient in Vitamin D have fetuses with developmental impairment in brain cells.

We’re all well aware of the implications of low vitamin D for bone health. Low calcium intake and poor vitamin D status are key factors in osteoporosis and fracture risk.. However in 2012 an article in Clinical Endocrinology suggested that calcium and vitamin D are essential in maintaining bone health by improving bone mineralization.

Still not convinced?

Vitamin D has been linked to numerous cancers including lung, breast, colon and prostate. An interesting study published in 2011 provided evidence that supplementing with high dose vitamin D could offset the effects of an elevated enzyme (CYP24A1) associated with the development of aggressive lung cancers (adenocarcinomas). Research is ongoing to investigate other anti-cancer benefits of vitamin D. The phenomenally high rates of suicide in Ireland have become a frightening statistic. With the financial downturn and miserable weather in Ireland, it’s not surprising that our mood tends to be lower during darker seasons. However, current evidence shows that there may be a link between suboptimal vitamin D levels and psychiatric disorders such as depression, schizophrenia and suicide. So what can you do to turn around your luck for 2014?

Forget “luck”, get your levels tested at Invigorate Clinic and commence a supplement regimen.

Unfortunately most healthcare centers or labs don’t recognize the importance of having OPTIMAL vitamin D levels as opposed to a level above which you do not suffer a deficiency disease. Similarly most multivitamin tablets do not have a sufficient dose of vitamin D to boost serum levels.