The 'sunshine vitamin' is most famous for promoting healthy bones and a strong immune system, but did you know that it is involved in far more than that?
Acting more like a hormone than a vitamin and with receptors for it located throughout the body, it deserves more of our attention.
One of the most fascinating areas for me is the role of Vitamin D in mental health. Shown to have both a regulatory and protective effect on our brain, lower levels are correlated with depression, premenstrual syndrome, mood disorders, poor cognitive function + attention span as well as an increased risk of dementia.
Research has also shown us associations between low Vitamin D status and infertility/miscarriage risk, cardiovascular disease, UTIs and even exercise performance.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our skin synthesises when exposed to the sun. But it isn’t quite as easy as living somewhere the sun shines.
Even in direct sunlight at certain times of day, we can’t make much if any Vitamin D due to the angle of the Earth relative to the sun. This is one reason we see high levels of deficiency and insufficiency even in places that get loads of sunshine, like here in Australia.
Then on top of that, factors like skin tone and sun safety can make it tricky to meet your needs, so more often than not supplementation is required.
Though some foods contain vitamin D (oily fish, egg yolks, mushrooms + fortified foods), adequate levels of Vitamin D can’t be obtained easily from even the most well-planned healthy diet.
To ensure you are getting enough of the D, regularly testing your levels is without a doubt the best option. A health care practitioner can assess your results and ensure you are on the right supplement/dosage - just make sure you always take Vitamin D with a source of fat as it is a fat-soluble vitamin!
This pesky deficiency appears on so many blood tests I analyse and given the importance of adequate vitamin D for our health, it's always a top priority for me to correct.