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What Are The Health Benefits Of Vitamin D?

Last updated Oct. 15, 2016

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH


Vitamin D is great for individuals with conditions like high blood pressure. It also may be able to help fight depression. However, taking much more than the maximum value can lead to calcium build-up, nausea, mood changes, and even organ damage.

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a critical vitamin for the growth and development of human beings. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in our fat cells for use when it is needed. It is frequently necessary for improving the intestinal absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. This can help keep the bones healthy and strong.

How Do You Get Vitamin D?

This vitamin can be produced in the body through the exposure of sunlight, which is why the vitamin is named the ‘sunshine vitamin’. When exposed to sunlight, your skin creates vitamin D. Most individuals receive some vitamin D from sunlight. However, there are some factors that affect how well the body makes vitamin D after sun exposure to the skin. For example, individuals who are from the northern United States make less vitamin D than those in the warmer climates to the south. This is especially true in winter when the sun is lower in the sky.

Who Can Benefit From Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is great for individuals with conditions like high blood pressure. Researchers at Boston University evaluated individuals with high blood pressure and had them exposed to UVA and UVB sun rays for three months. Individuals who were exposed to UVA and UVB light experienced an increase in vitamin D levels by 100%. Also, their blood pressure levels became more regulated. Some individuals theorize that vitamin D reduces blood pressure by decreasing the production of a hormone called rennin, which is responsible for the role of high blood pressure. 

Other Benefits of Vitamin D:

Vitamin D may be able to help fight depression. A study published in Nature magazine suggested a link between low vitamin D levels and depressive disorders. Also, new studies suggest that vitamin D can improve the risk rates of a number of brain disorders including dementia and even its most severe form, Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states that in 2014, Alzheimer’s disease affected approximately 5.2 million Americans.

Vitamin D plays a big role due to its improved anti-inflammatory effects and immune-boosting properties. Inflammation is the body’s first line of defense when protecting itself. Too much inflammation is bad; currently, there is ongoing research taking place to understand the association between inflammation and heart attacks. An anti-inflammatory drug can reduce the swelling or redness caused by harmful stimuli within the body. Vitamin D can protect the brain from cellular damage and even cancer.

Individuals should consume between 600 to 800 IU per day of vitamin D. Taking much more than the maximum value can lead to calcium build-up, nausea, mood changes, and even organ damage. Individuals should not be too afraid to expose themselves to the sun in order to avoid vitamin D deficiency. However, make sure to apply sunscreen regularly.

Additional Resources:

Alzheimer's Foundation of America. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.alzfdn.org/AboutAlzheimers/statistics.html

Facts about Vitamin D - University of Florida. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/FY/FY20700.pdf_br

Holick, M. F. (2006). High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clin Proc, 81(3), 353-373. doi: 10.4065/81.3.353

Vitamin D. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Vitamins and Minerals. (2011, February 23). Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/vitamins/

Molecular Psychiatry - Abstract of article: The association ... (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v19/n4/abs/mp201336a.html?WT.ec_id=MP-201404_br

Littlejohns, T. J., Henley, W. E., Lang, I. A., Annweiler, C., Beauchet, O., Chaves, P. H., . . . Llewellyn, D. J. (2014). Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 83(10), 920-928. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000755

Takeuchi, H., & Runger, T. M. (2013). Longwave UV light induces the aging-associated progerin. J Invest Dermatol, 133(7), 1857-1862. doi: 10.1038/jid.2013.71

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Grant, W. B., & Holick, M. F. (2005). Benefits and requirements of vitamin D for optimal health: a review. Altern Med Rev, 10(2), 94-111.

Kampman, E., Slattery, M. L., Caan, B., & Potter, J. D. (2000). Calcium, vitamin D, sunshine exposure, dairy products and colon cancer risk (United States). Cancer Causes & Control, 11(5), 459-466.

Lips, P. (2006). Vitamin D physiology. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 92(1), 4-8.

McGrath, J. J., Kimlin, M. G., Saha, S., Eyles, D. W., & Parisi, A. V. (2001). Vitamin D insufficiency in south-east Queensland. Medical Journal of Australia, 174(3), 150-150.

Holick, M. F. (2007). Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine,357(3), 266-281.

Holick, M. F., & Chen, T. C. (2008). Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. The American journal of clinical nutrition,87(4), 1080S-1086S.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Oct. 15, 2016
Last updated: Oct. 15, 2016