Vitamin D: Vital Role in Your Health

Researchers conclude the 'sunshine vitamin' is good medicine.

By Richard Trubo
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Vitamins like C and E continue to be the darlings of many supplement lovers. But those vitamin superstars are being forced to share their throne with the long neglected vitamin D, which is finally getting the attention it may have always deserved.

No doubt, you're probably familiar with the role of vitamin D in promoting healthy bones, largely by promoting the absorption of calcium. "If you have a vitamin D deficiency, particularly in your older years, it can lead to osteoporosis or osteomalacia [bone softening]," says Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas.

But there is recent and mounting evidence that links low levels of the vitamin to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain, and, perhaps more serious, cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus, and lymphatic system.

If you want to lower your blood pressure, vitamin D may be just what the doctor ordered. If you're trying to reduce your risk of diabetes, or lower your chances of heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis, then vitamin D should be at the front of the line in your daily supplement regimen.

D-fense for Your Health

As the research into vitamin D is accumulating, it's hard to know where the accolades should start. "Activated vitamin D is one of the most potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth," says Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, who heads the Vitamin D, Skin, and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine. "It also stimulates your pancreas to make insulin. It regulates your immune system."