Think about vitamin D when you’re catching up on summer rays. It’s sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. It can affect as many as 2,000 genes in your body.
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s directly exposed to sunlight. Besides getting vitamin D through sunlight, you can also get it through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
Vitamin D has several important functions. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and facilitating normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance to certain diseases.
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you’re at risk of developing bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).
Vitamin D fights disease
In addition to its primary benefits, research suggests that vitamin D may also play a role in:
Reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
Decreasing your chance of developing heart disease, according to 2008 findings published in Circulation
Helping to reduce your likelihood of developing the flu, according to 2010 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Vitamin D reduces depression
Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms. In another study of people with fibromyalgia, researchers found vitamin D deficiency was more common in those who were also experiencing anxiety and depression.
Vitamin D boosts weight loss
Consider adding vitamin D supplements to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight or prevent heart disease.
n one study, people who took a daily vitamin D supplement didn’t lose a significant amount of weight but were able to improve their heart disease risk markers. In another study, people taking a daily calcium and vitamin D supplement were able to lose more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement. The scientists said the extra calcium and vitamin D had an appetite-suppressing effect.