Deficiencies of this very important vitamin are due to decreased sunlight exposure and lack of dietary sources. Groups that are most at risk are our elderly in nursing homes and hospitals, those of us, like myself, that have a lifestyle or condition that precludes sun exposure such as past history of melanoma and also people with malabsorption conditions such as coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel conditions. Deficiency is well documented as being associated with fatigue and when supplemented to a sufficient level, fatigue scores drop off. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158648/ It is interesting to note fatigue is twice as common in women than men and women tend to have lower vitamin D levels.
So now we know a little about how we get it and its association with fatigue, how will Vitamin D improve my energy and metabolism??
- We know that calcium is important for bone strength. Calcium is also important though for cell stimulation including muscle cells. Vitamin D helps us release calcium back in to the blood stream to help our cells function and give us energy.
- Vitamin D is important in the growth and development of cells. Of course, if we can grow more muscle cells, and they proliferate, we will have more energy as muscle cells contain 'mitochondria' that act like batteries charging us up!
- Because D helps cells mature and divide, it helps immune cells to increase in numbers and fight infection. This is important because when we're sick we don't have energy, so this is an indirect way of how Vitamin D keeps on our feet with a healthy immune system.
- MUSCLES again. Some great research out there involving the importance of vitamin D on muscle strength. This great little study on Indian participants found deficiency to be linked with muscle weakness http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24679100
- The mechanism is unknown but Vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity. One study by Sergeev IN, 2009 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19393629 suggests that Vitamin D can help with weight due to it's role in increasing Calcium in the blood which regulates the programmed death of fat cells. The verdict is still out though as other studies suggest that Vitamin D is low in obesity because it is a fat soluble vitamin and being sequestered into fat tissue would leave low levels in the blood. This means that there may or may not be a correlation between sufficient levels of vitamin D and healthy weight.
- Important to note, Vitamin D (800IU/day cholecalciferal Vitamin D) used in conjunction with calcium (1200mg/ calcium/day) over three months was shown to reduce falls in elderly women by a whopping 60% compared with calcium supplementation alone (Bischoff-Ferrari et al 2006). I wanted to add this in because if you have a loved one in a nursing home with reduced exposure to sunlight, or has been hospitalised for falls, you might want to supplement them with Vitamin D.
As you can see, healthy levels of Vitamin D (about 500IU/day) is what you need to maintain healthy cell division, healthy muscle function and immune protection. I love the last point as well as having worked in hospitals, I know that most patients come in after experiencing a fall. If we can reduce these numbers simply by taking Vitamin D and calcium supplements then I think that is awesome.
Get your 'D' on!