This is vitamin D awareness week. Vitamin D is always in the news at the moment as more and more research is emerging about this important nutrient and how vital it is for our health. Although it is named as a vitamin our body actually converts it to a hormone. Here are a few of the most important functions of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health as your body needs it in order to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus as well as stimulating bone cell mineralisation. One of the more extreme signs of vitamin D deficiency is rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults.
Vitamin D has a huge role to play in immune support. In recent years scientists have discovered that immune cells contain vitamin D receptors on their surface. Vitamin D is known to have a protective role to play in the immune system with studies showing that people with lower levels are more likely to succumb to colds and flu. Vitamin D was even unwittingly used to treat tuberculosis as before the use of antibiotics, patients were exposed to direct sunlight in sanatoriums.
Vitamin D is also thought to play a big role in autoimmunity and a deficiency has been linked to autoimmune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.
Vitamin D is important for the cardiovascular system too. Scientists are still working on exactly why this is but receptors have been found in cardiovascular tissue and studies have shown that it plays a role in regulating issues such as inflammation and thrombosis.
Studies have shown that vitamin D is important for cancer prevention and for helping to kill off cancer cells and slow the growth of tumours.
Many studies have found vitamin D to be important in brain development. Deficiency has been liked to disorders such as schizophrenia as well as neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. More specifically, vitamin D deficiency has been shown to affect the levels of dopamine, a very important neurotransmitter.
Good food sources include oily fish such as sardines and salmon, egg yolk and butter. However, none of these come close to the main source…sunshine. Sadly, in the UK we simply don’t see enough sun throughout the year to get adequate levels, meaning it is quite likely that most of us are deficient. The best option is to get tested and luckily this is really easy and quite inexpensive. The link below shows you how to order a home test for just £25.