Vitamin D is famous for its relationship with sunlight, often being hailed as the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ But, other than being used as a popular summertime catchphrase, what do we actually need vitamin D for? The short answer is, a lot. Vitamin D is involved with several important functions throughout the body and without it, we would quickly find ourselves victims to bone disease, muscular weakness, cardiovascular issues and even cognitive problems.
First, let’s take a look at vitamins D’s most well-known role – calcium absorption. Calcium is the most widespread mineral found throughout our body and is crucial when it comes to the formation of our bones and teeth. If our intake of vitamin D is low, the body will start to draw calcium out of our bones, leading to various complications and bone degeneration. Vitamin D allows calcium to be absorbed where it is needed, which can even have positive repercussions for our muscle health. This is because calcium is also important when it comes to contracting our muscles – calcium allows the myofilaments inside your muscles to connect and slide to stimulate a contraction.
When we mean muscle health we mean all muscles, including your heart. Calcium is involved with regulation your cardiac muscle. Calcium enables your heart to contract and convey blood into your arteries, to be transported around your body. This is why vitamin D deficiency is suspected to play a role in hypertension, or high blood pressure, although more research is still needed before this link can be clarified.
Stepping away from calcium, let’s take a look at our mood. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, refers to a specific type of depressive condition that often affects sufferers during the winter months. This is possibly due to the encouraging effect that sunlight has on our serotonin and melatonin levels. Without sunlight, our levels of these vital, feel-good hormones start to deplete, making us more susceptible to bouts of low mood and depression.
However, there is also some evidence to suggest that vitamin D can play a role in this as well.
"Certain vitamin D receptors in the brain are also linked with depression, implying that there is a connection between vitamin D and depression."
Further studies also revealed that this relationship could be due to vitamin D3, the same form of vitamin D that we absorb through sunlight. Vitamin D3 has been linked with depression relief and according to studies, those that suffer from lowered levels of vitamin D are 11 times more likely to be predisposed to depression than those with healthy levels of the vitamin.
Nevertheless, our moods can sometimes be affected by our immune function, another area where vitamin D lends a hand. According to research publicised in the journal Nature Immunology, vitamin D encourages and strengthens the T cells that help our immune system to fight off pathogens and infections. Although further research is still needed, this field of study is looking promising and it certainly looks as though vitamin D is important when it comes to supporting our immune system.
So, as you can see, vitamin D is brilliant all round. The problem is that the vitamin is difficult to come by, especially if you inhabit a country that has turned its wet, miserable summers into a national joke. If sunlight is not an option, what can we do to up our intake of this vitamin? Two answers stand out!
Although vitamin D is not as present in our food as say, vitamin C, it can still be found in certain food products. Oily fish are a safe bet so why not try incorporating more salmon and mackerel into your diet? Not only are these delicious fish packed with vitamin D, they also contain essential fatty acids that can help to keep your hair and skin healthy! Egg yolks are another fantastic source of the vitamin – and really on a cold day, who doesn’t love soft-boiled eggs and soldiers? Luckily, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, tofu and almond milk also count as good sources of vitamin D.
For most of us, if vitamin D is hard to come by, supplements can prove to be a useful option. We love BetterYou’s range of oral vitamin D sprays here at Jan de Vries. Simply spray under the tongue or on the inside of your cheek. BetterYou sprays are convenient and easy to take on the go, at work or first thing in the morning. They taste great and also have a range for children, what's not to love?