What Does Vitamin D Do for the Body? 9 Health Benefits

Medically Reviewed on 2/25/2022
What Does Vitamin D Do for the Body
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient the body needs to keep bones and muscles healthy, as well as build a strong immune system

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient the body needs to keep bones and muscles healthy, as well as build a strong immune system.

  • Regulates calcium absorption: Vitamin D is crucial for calcium and phosphorus absorption and thus the development of healthy bones. Vitamin D can be obtained from supplements or sunlight exposure, which converts vitamin D to its active form and then helps the body absorb calcium from ingested food. Vitamin D deficiency can cause soft bones in adults, leading to a condition called osteomalacia. Weak bones can also lead to the loss of bone density, leading to a condition called osteoporosis. Lack of vitamin D can cause rickets in children. 
  • Maintains blood calcium levels: The primary function of parathyroid glands is to maintain blood calcium levels by communicating with the kidneys, guts and skeleton. Low calcium and vitamin D levels in the body can cause the parathyroid glands to borrow calcium from the bones to maintain the blood calcium level in the normal range.

9 health benefits of vitamin D

  1. Lowers the risk of osteomalacia: Vitamin D supplements are beneficial in treating osteomalacia or loss of bone density, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency.
  2. Lowers the risk of osteoporosis: Studies have shown that getting adequate calcium and vitamin D in the diet can slow bone loss, prevent osteoporosis, and reduce bone fractures. Consult your doctor, however, before taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent or treat osteoporosis.
  3. Helps treat inherited bone disorders: Studies have shown that the use of vitamin D can help treat inherited bone disorders, such as familial hypophosphatemia, which can cause inadequate absorption or processing of vitamin D.
  4. Lowers the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS): Several studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and the risk of developing MS. Long-term vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of the disease.
  5. Helps treat psoriasis: Applying a topical preparation of vitamin D containing calcipotriene can help treat plaque-type psoriasis in some people.
  6. May boost cognitive health: Studies on the effects of vitamin D on the brain have found that low vitamin D levels can affect cognitive health. However, more evidence is required to support the use of vitamin D supplements to boost cognitive health.
  7. Lowers the risk of depression: Vitamin D is needed for the brain to function effectively. Some studies have established a connection between low vitamin D levels in the blood and an increased risk of depression, although clinical trials have found that taking vitamin D supplements does not prevent or ease depression symptoms.
  8. Promotes heart health: Vitamin D is essential to maintain healthy functioning of the heart and blood vessels. Studies have shown that taking vitamin D supplements may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. However, overweight or obese people taking vitamin D at doses above 20 mcg (800 IU) a day along with calcium may have raised blood pressure. More studies are needed to determine how helpful vitamin D supplements are in boosting heart health.
  9. Lowers the risk of dying from cancer: While vitamin D may not reduce the risk of cancer from forming, clinical trials suggest that taking vitamin D supplements may reduce the risk of dying from cancer. More evidence is required to understand the role of vitamin D in cancer prevention and cancer-related death.

QUESTION

Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

How much vitamin D do I need a day?

How much vitamin D you need a day depends on your age. Below are average daily recommended amounts.

Table. Recommended vitamin D levels according to age
Age group Recommended amount
Birth to 12 months old 10 mcg (400 IU)
Children 1 to 13 years old 15 mcg (600 IU)
Teens 14 to 18 years old 15 mcg (600 IU)
Adults 19 to 70 years old 15 mcg (600 IU)
Adults 71 years old and older 20 mcg (800 IU)
Pregnant and breastfeeding women 15 mcg (600 IU)

In order to produce the active form of vitamin D ingested through food, some amount of sun exposure is needed. However, UV radiation from the sun can cause skin problems, including sunburn and skin cancer, so it’s important to be cautious about how much time you spend in the sun. 

Excessive intake of vitamin D can cause toxicity. Therefore, talk to your doctor before taking vitamin D supplements.

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Medically Reviewed on 2/25/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/

Mayo Clinic. Vitamin D. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792