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Top 3 Benefits of Vitamin D

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Top 3 Benefits of Vitamin D

What exactly makes vitamin D so important to our health? Quite simply, it directly and indirectly influences most of what happens in our bodies every second of every day.

To understand, you have to shift your thinking a bit. Vitamin D isnít actually a vitamin. Rather, itís a hormone precursor that our biological ancestors made from being in the sun. When exposed to UV rays, a chemical cousin of cholesterol in the skin converts to vitamin D, which travels to the liver and is changed to the prehormone calcidiol. Calcitriol (the actual hormone) attaches to more than 2,700 sites on the human genome, and it turns on more than 1,000 genes, prompting them to do their jobs.

Creighton Universityís Robert P. Heaney, MD, points out that vitamin D is a key part of the biochemical machinery that opens up our entire genome, so cells can tap into the vast information it contains. In a remarkable feat of biology, individual cells synthesize calcitriol, which then turns around to regulate those cellsí activities. Itís these fundamental roles of vitamin D that affect our risk for so many different diseases. In fact, says Heaney, “Vitamin D probably affects every disease.”

The evidence is particularly strong when it comes to vitamin Dís role in resisting infection, maintaining bone and muscle, and reducing cancer risks.

1. Cold and Flu Protection

Is it a coincidence that the vast majority of cold and flu outbreaks occur during the winter, when people have less sun exposure and lower levels of vitamin D? Probably not. In 2009 researchers analyzed patterns of deaths and disease complications (typically pneumonia) during the influenza pandemic that raged through the United States in 1918 and 1919, killing at least one-half million people. The researchers reported that the fewest flu deaths and complications occurred in southern cities, where the sun shone brighter throughout the year and, presumably, people had higher vitamin D levels. In contrast, the most deaths occurred in northern cities, where there was less sun exposure.

Granted, this association doesn’t prove cause and effect, but itís certainly suggestive, and other evidence does support the protective role of vitamin D. Over the 2008Ė2009 winter months, doctors gave 1,200 IU of vitamin D daily to Japanese school children. Compared with children getting placebos, those taking vitamin D were 42 percent less likely to contract the flu and 83 percent less likely to suffer asthma attacks.

The underlying mechanisms are now understood. Numerous immune compounds depend on vitamin D, including PCL-gamma1, a molecule that activates immune cells so theyíre capable of fighting infections. In addition, lung cells are among those that secrete 1a-hydroxylase, an enzyme that converts inactive vitamin D to its active form, helping fight respiratory infections. The vitamin D then turns on genes involved in immunity and boosts levels of cathelicidin, a powerful germ-fighting compound.

Prevent the Cold & Flu Naturally

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

105 comments

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2:04AM PDT on Oct 15, 2013

Just found out today that my Vitamin D level is at 36% which isnt good so now I ll have to take Vit D with calcium and see how I go in Feb when I have the test again. Good that we are coming into summer but I cant sit in the searing heat as I d burn to a crisp then Id have to deal with other issues. Hooohumm.

2:18PM PST on Nov 29, 2012

Very important, thanks

9:31PM PDT on May 3, 2012

Vitamin D is one of the health benefitting nutrients for our body. You might think that this essential vitamin could only be obtained from the sunlight exposure but there are also foods that contain vitamin D. The most important benefits of Vitamin D are prevention of flu virus infections, healthy bone development, increase in body’s immunity, regulation of blood pressure and strengthening of the white blood cells. Most fruits and vegetables have their own essential vitamins in preventing diseases and maintaining our body healthy. That is why it is more important to consume these foods in their natural form. Thank you for sharing this health content, keep it up! (SHARED TO SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES)

Mark Cruz
NewVitality

5:13PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

very informative

5:19AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Thanks.

7:08PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

While I spend a lot of time outside in the summer, the rest of the year it is frequently cloudy here and too cold to have a lot of skin exposed. I was taking D3 but apparently not enough because my lab test came back at 24. I definitely recommend getting tested to have a better idea of how much you really need.

1:16PM PST on Feb 29, 2012

Already take it and feel so much better

4:56PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

10 minutes of sun a day!

10:24AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

thanks

8:05AM PST on Feb 7, 2012

My sister and my best friend had to take a presciption of Vitamin D for awhile because they were both low. I had my doctor check me and he said mine was fine. The difference is that neither one of them get outside much. I love to work out in the yard. I do take a suppliment in the winter because it is too cold to work outside. But, as soon as Spring gets here, out I go.

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