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5 Powerful Vitamin D Benefits That Make It a “Super-Vitamin”

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5 Powerful Vitamin D Benefits That Make It a “Super-Vitamin”

Modern research is revealing that vitamin D’s benefits extend far beyond what we once thought.

 

Just a few years ago, vitamin D was simply known as the “bone vitamin,” and even today many physicians still believe it essential only for bone health.

Research shows otherwise, however: insufficient vitamin D levels increases the risk of many types of disease, including osteoporosisheart diseasestrokesome cancerstype 1 diabetes,  multiple sclerosistuberculosis and even the flu, but in this article we’re going to focus on the positive.

That is, we’re going to look at some of vitamin D’s amazing benefits and why I believe it’s one supplement that just about everyone should be taking every day.

So let’s see what the literature says about vitamin D’s benefits.

What is Vitamin D?

As I noted earlier, it was once believed that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels was only for bone health.

Well, thanks to the hard work of many scientists, including the notable Dr. Michael Holick, we now know that nearly every type of tissue and cell in the body has vitamin D receptors, which means its actually an essential hormone that plays a vital role in a large number of physiological processes.

When we ingest vitamin D or produce it in the skin (as a result of sun exposure), it gets converted into its active form1 ,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, or vitamin D3. This substance then interacts with and supports virtually every tissue type in your body, including your heart, brain, and even fat cells. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that vitamin D also regulates genes that control immune function, metabolism, and even cell growth and development.

As you can see, this vitamin deserves a lot more attention than it has been given over the last couple of decades. Fortunately, however, vitamin D’s vital importance and amazing benefits are becoming more and more widely known and accepted.

Let’s look at five of these benefits now.

Vitamin D Benefit #1:
Vitamin D Supports Heart Health

Vitamin D deficiency goes hand in hand with cardiovascular disease and is considered an independent predictor for circulatory diseases like heart attacks and strokes.

In this study, researchers measured vitamin D levels of 1783 healthy middle-aged subjects (964 men and 819 women) and found that women with vitamin D levels in the top one-third of the subjects analyzed had 68% lower risk of heart attack compared with those in the bottom one-third. In men, researchers found 44% lower risk in the upper third compared to the lower.

Conversely, research shows that a vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of dying of heart disease by 42% and the risk of stroke by anywhere from 49 to 64%.

The reason vitamin D levels play such a big role in cardiovascular health is heart muscle and the circulatory system are teeming with vitamin D receptors, which indicates how much they rely on this hormone for maintaining optimal health and function.

Thus, it’s not surprising that research has demonstrated that supplementation with adequate amounts of vitamin D improves heart health in various ways:

The research is clear: maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D has a profound effect on heart and circulatory health.

Vitamin D Benefit #2:
Vitamin D Helps Preserve Insulin Sensitivity

Research shows that a vitamin D deficiency nearly doubles your risk of reaching a “pre-diabetic” level of insulin resistance and ultimately progressing to type II diabetes.

Simply ensuring you have sufficient vitamin D in your blood dramatically reduces your risk of developing type II diabetes, but research shows it can even benefit those struggling with insulin-related problems (including those with the disease).

For instance, in this study, diabetic adults supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day for 16 weeks and displayed dramatically improved glucose control, insulin response, and hemoglobin A1c levels. This study demonstrated similar results with 1,000 IU per day.

Preserving insulin sensitivity not only helps maintain optimal overall health but also helps with building muscle. Research shows that vitamin D even has other muscle-building properties: it magnifies the muscle-building effects of leucine, which is why I take mine with my post-workout meal.

Vitamin D Benefit #3:
Vitamin D Keeps Your Brain Healthy

Research shows that insufficient vitamin D levels dramatically increases the risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s dementia.

This is because the brain is replete with vitamin D receptors and relies on the hormone to combat various destructive processes. Furthermore, vitamin D plays a vital role in growing new nerve cells, transmission of nerve impulses, and maintaing “brain plasticity,” which is vital for functions related to learning and memory.

Vitamin D is so powerful in the brain that research shows it can even reverse the neurodegenerative decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease and prevent deterioration in Parkinson’s disease patients.

Vitamin D Benefit #4:
Vitamin D Guards Against Cancer

Having low levels of vitamin D drastically increases the risk of developing various forms of cancer, including those of the breast, thyroid, and bladder.

These correlations are due to the fact that vitamin D receptors regulate a number of processes related to the immune response to cancer cells, tumor growth, and inflammation.

The anti-carcinogenic powers of vitamin D can be seen in studies that demonstrated vitamin D supplementation reduces the tumor-promoting effects of estrogen, decreases the incidence of prostate cancer tumors, and decreases levels of the tumor-promoting protein beta-catenin while increasing the tumor-suppressing protein known as APC.

Vitamin D Benefit #5:
Vitamin D Helps Maintain Immune Health

Immune cells rely on vitamin D to regulate how they respond to threats in the body, first by attacking and destroying, followed by “cleaning up” and returning to a state of dormant readiness.

This is why research shows that low levels of vitamin D accelerates the onset and progression of autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D Deficiencies Are Far Too Common

It’s estimated that nearly 1 billion people have inadequate vitamin D levels for supporting optimal health. (Click here to tweet this!) Yikes!

According to current medical standards, there are three levels of vitamin D status as determined by blood testing:

  • Sufficient means you have at least 30 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood (ng/mL)
  • Insufficient means you have vitamin D levels between 21 and 29 ng/mL)
  • Deficient means you have levels at or below 20 ng/mL

Research shows that 25% of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D and 39% are deficient, which means a surprising 64% of Americans have inadequate levels of vitamin D.

What gives? Why are do so many people have low levels of vitamin D?

Well, a major reason for this is the fact that it’s very tough to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from the diet alone, and unless you have time to sunbathe every day, your only option is supplementation. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

How Much Vitamin D Do We Need?

According to the Institute of Medicine, 600 IU per day is adequate for ages 1-70 (and 800 IU per day for 71+), but these numbers have been severely criticized by scientists that specialized in vitamin D research. They call attention to the over 125 peer-reviewed studies that indicate such recommendations are too low, and are likely to lead to vitamin D deficiencies.

A committee of the U.S. Endocrine Society recently convened to review the evidence, and concluded that 600-1,000 IU per day is adequate for ages 1-18, and 1,500-2,000 IU per day is adequate for ages 19+.

According to Dr. Michael Holick, however, 2,000 IU per day is suboptimal. Research shows that 2,000 IU per day is the minimum needed to maintain vitamin D sufficiency (30 ng/mL), but Dr. Holick maintains that optimal vitamin D status is actually between 50 and 80 ng/mL, which would call for a daily intake closer to 5,000 IU.

Considering the fact that overdosing isn’t likely to occur until intake skyrockets to 40,000 IU per day for several months, or 300,000 IU in a 24-hour period, these are very safe recommendations.

So, I recommend you start at 2,000 IU per day and then get blood tested for your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (the usable form of vitamin D your body creates) to ascertain your vitamin D status.

Chances are you’ll come in below 50 to 80 ng/mL and research shows that you need to increase intake of vitamin D by 100 IU to increase blood concentration by1 ng/mL. For instance, if your test came back at 30 ng/mL and you wanted to raise it to 50 ng/mL, you would need to increase your current intake by 2,000 IU.

What Are Good Sources of Vitamin D?

As you may know, our body can’t produce enough vitamin D to maintain adequate levels–we have to get additional amounts from our diet, sun exposure, or supplementation. Let’s look at each of these sources separately.

Vitamin D is hard to come by in nature. You find very small amounts in various foods like beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks, and slightly larger amounts in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, which have anywhere from 50 to 150 IU per ounce. Cod liver oil is by far the best food source with over 1,300 IU per tablespoon.

You’ll find vitamin D added to various “fortified” foods like milk, breakfast cereals, orange juice, and margarine, but reaching an adequate intake of vitamin D through these foods alone isn’t feasible if you’re trying to follow a sensible meal plan.

Now, when our skin is exposed to UVB rays, they interact with a form of cholesterol in the body to produce vitamin D. The more skin that is exposed to the sun, and the stronger its rays, the more vitamin D you produce. 

Research has shown that, with 25% of our skin exposed, our bodies can produce upwards of 400 IUs of vitamin D in just 3-6 minutes of exposure to the 12 PM Florida sun. As you can see, however, reaching optimal levels would require anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes of sunbathing per day. And ain’t nobody got time for that. 😉

This is why I recommend you simply supplement with vitamin D. It’s cheap, effective, and gives you maximum flexibility in your diet (personally I’m not a fan of salmon, mackerel, or beef liver).

Here’s the supplement I take:

Now Foods vitamin D-3.

If you prefer to stick with a food-based source of vitamin D, I recommend the following cod liver oil:

carlson-labs-cod-liver-oil

If you’d like to learn more about vitamin D and what the latest scientific research is revealing, I highly recommend Dr. Michael Holick’s book:

vitamin-d-solution3

 

What do you think of vitamin D’s benefits? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Great article Mike! Been researching a lot of studies about vitamin D lately (Dr. Holick seems to be the leading expert in the field for sure).

    Vitamin D just seems to be the next best thing since sliced bread.

    One of the greatest benefits by far for us men, is the fact that D is essential for testosterone production.

    Numerous of human studies have provided that vitamin D boosts testosterone levels naturally and that men with low testosterone often have low vitamin D levels.

    (Just like with zinc, vitamin D boosts testosterone levels up to a certain point, and that’s until your body has “enough” of vitamin D to maintain all of it’s bodily functions regulated by “the bone vitamin”).

    I’d say that if majority of men would make sure that they’d even get adequate amounts of zinc and vitamin D, we’d have far less “low T” around.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah vit D is amazing. Very true on the T point!

      • acirpr

        are women supposed to take the Vitamin D as well?

        • Michael Matthews

          Absolutely

  • IgnoreLimits

    Great post Mike.
    Vitamin D is one of the few supplements I definitely notice tangible benefits from supplementing (spending the 95% of the day in an office would not surprise me that I’m deficient!).

    I did a little write up on my thoughts of Vitamin D here:

    http://ignorelimits.com/dieting/the-vitamin-d-down-low-improve-your-performance-with-d/

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Great article!

  • James

    Hi mike great article! What’s the best way to have a de load week in the gym? Less sets, less weight? Etc?

  • Jeremy Williams

    Great article mike, I joined this to drop glucose in the blood so very interested in all health topics and anything to help with insulin sensitivity. So thank you 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jeremy! You should definitely be supplementing with vit D if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun.

  • Leslie

    thanks for the great article! my vitamin d level is always low and I take supplements but only 1000 a day I will bump it up to 2000 I get tested again in a month

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Good call!

  • Jimmy Popovitch

    Hey Mike!

    Woudl the benefits of an additional Vitamin D supplement be moot if one is taking a multivitamin? I take NOW Foods Adam which has 1,000 IU Vitamin D-3 (as Cholecalciferol) per serving (2 softgels daily) but is that different than the seperate Vitamin D supplement?

    • Jimmy Popovitch

      Oh wait, 2,000 IU is insufficient how did I manage to skip over that? I think I may have answered my own question!

      • Michael Matthews

        Yeah that would probably keep your levels around 30 and you want upwards of 50.

    • Michael Matthews

      D3 is what you want yes.

  • Alon Rosner

    Big thanks for another great article, Mike. Just ordered some.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man glad to hear it. Maintaining optimal D3 levels is hugely important.

  • tweets32

    Great article Mike! I was feeling completely tired and drained everyday, especially on workout days. Thought I was just getting old but went to the doctor’s and asked him to test my Vitamin D levels and thyroid. Turned out I was completely low on Vitamin D and am now on prescription strength of 50,000 IU twice a week until I get retested. I was very surprised because I take a multivitamin and fish oil every day. I didn’t want to take an additional Vitamin D because I heard the horror stories of overdosing on Vitamin D. This article makes me feel better about taking the Vitamin D if you can safely take up to 40,000 IU a day. By the way, my cousin has Multiple Sclerosis and her doctor has her on a high dose of Vitamin D. Thanks for the info Mike. Keep up the good work. Love your “Bigger, Leaner, Stronger” book. I follow your workout plan even though I’m a woman 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks and that’s great you honed in on that. Let me know if it helps! Thanks for your support!

  • Another home run Mike — Thanks!!!

    I’ve been on to vitamin D for sometime and wonder what you think of the version I take. I heard the pills don’t absorb as much, so I get drops.

    http://www.amazon.com/Liquid-Vitamin-drop-Servings-Potency/dp/B003800UXG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1404171291&sr=8-3&keywords=vitamin+d+drops

    Still good?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yup that looks fine to me!

  • Yazeed Al Matrudi

    Great article! I have deficiency in Vit D. Now, I am taking 50,000 IU/ week then I am going to take daily dose 2000 IU. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That’s good you’re addressing the deficiency!

  • Can you recommend a high quality water filter? I remember hearing it in your book (listened to it on audible twice), but trouble going back to find the reference in the audiobook. Thanks

  • Alan

    Thank you very much for this article Mike!

    I got my 25-hydroxyvitamin D level checked soon after reading it and it turned out that I do indeed have insufficient level of it (as 90% of people in Poland). I started to supplement with 4,000IU / day, I hope it will fix the problem.

    I actually had no idea this vitamin is so vital for maintaining good health. Moreover, it turns out that levels below 30 ng/ml are associated with a doubled risk of premature death (from all causes) – http://www.biospace.com/news_story.aspx?StoryID=336738 .

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure and that’s great you’re addressing the insufficiency.

      Yes it’s incredibly important to have sufficient D3.

  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the article! 🙂 I picked up NOW’s Vitamin D supplement (recommended above). However, I just listened to one of your podcasts (with Ben Greenfield, I think it was) and he mentioned that you shouldn’t take a Vitamin D supplement without also supplementing with Vitamin K. Is it dangerous to just take the Vit. D or will it just not be as helpful?

    Thanks!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • TD

    I was sorely lacking in vitamin D, and the minute I started supplementing…I felt SO MUCH BETTER. Everything improved from my sleep to my moods to even my energy levels. I definitely have to supplement because I don’t live in a sunny climate.

    • Wow. Those are great results from vitamin D supplementation. Definitely important to make sure you have enough. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jon

    Hi Mike,

    I know triumph has vitamin d, does your fish oil (triton) naturally have vitamin d too? If so, any idea how much?

    Thanks

  • Great article mike.

    I think Im probably lacking in vitamin D, definitely one vitamin that’s easy to overlook.

    I’m suspecting I’ve maybe had a bit of insulin resistance since the start of 2015 after having treatment for cellulitis. Before that in 2014 my body was showing results from working out.

    Well I’m doubting there’s any connection between cellulitis and insulin sensitivity/resistance.

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