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10 Uses for Vitamin D

By , Managing Editor
Monday, August 13, 2012
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If there was an award for best breakthrough performance by a nutrient, vitamin D would have it, hands down. While vitamin D has long been considered one of the keys to overall health, this fat-soluble vitamin has been the focus of several recent studies and scientific discoveries that make it one of the most strongly recommended supplements by health and nutrition professionals.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is 600 IU from age one until age 70, when intake should be increased to 800 IU. Infants and children under age one should consume 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Here are 10 reasons that make vitamin D worth a second, fifth and tenth look:

1. Strong Bones -- The protection of bone health is by far the most recognizable and proven effective use of vitamin D. When combined with calcium, vitamin D promotes better absorption of this important mineral. Vitamin D prevents children from developing rickets, helps bones develop properly and keeps them strong to prevent fractures, breaks and osteoporosis.

2. Immunity -- Vitamin D is one of the many vitamins that strengthens the immune system because the vitamin D receptor is expressed on immune cells, helping to regulate responses and prevent autoimmune diseases. Maintaining a strong immune system all year long can help reduce your risk for contracting viral and bacterial infections from the common cold to more serious conditions.

3. Respiratory Health -- When it comes to the respiratory system, vitamin D helps to inhibit inflammatory responses, strengthens the body's defenses against threats and optimizes pulmonary function for better breathing. Seen predominantly in children, vitamin D can help prevent the onset of asthma attacks as well as respiratory conditions brought on by seasonal changes.

4. Neuromuscular Function -- This vitamin promotes proper muscle function due to its role in protein synthesis. Women who take vitamin D daily can lower their chance of developing multiple sclerosis by up to 40 percent. Vitamin D also supports neuromuscular and neuroprotective function, according to a 2004 study published in the medical journal Age and Ageing, improving muscle function, reaction time and balance in elderly people prone to falls.

5. Cancer Prevention -- The latest news about vitamin D is its role in cancer prevention. Lab studies and examinations of populations with varying levels of vitamin D exposure showed higher levels of vitamin D reduced the risk for developing cancer, particularly breast, prostate and colorectal cancers, and may help slow the growth of or kill cancer cells. Research continues to determine the direct link and recommended intake for such benefits.

6. Skin Conditions -- Taking vitamin D (pharmaceutical grade) can improve and prevent symptoms of psoriasis, a skin condition that presents as red, flaky patches on the skin. Vitamin D can also be useful for scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder that presents symptoms such as skin tightening, changes in skin color and small lumps below the skin.

7. Heart Health -- Conditions affecting the heart, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, can both be helped by vitamin D, which reduces inflammation. However, research conducted at Johns Hopkins concluded going above the RDA of vitamin D has the potential to increase c-reactive protein (CRP) levels, the marker for cardiovascular inflammation. As with all of these benefits, stick to the amount recommended by your health practitioner.

8. Weight Control -- Research showed vitamin D can be an effective tool for losing weight and/or maintaining an ideal weight, particularly in women. Vitamin D is said to work with different cell receptors, controlling hunger and cravings and telling the body to burn stored fat for energy. These benefits are best seen when extra vitamin D is added to a balanced diet and regular exercise program.

9. Oral Care -- Oral health is a great indicator of overall wellness and just like our bones, the teeth need calcium to prevent chipping, breaking and decay. Taking vitamin D with calcium makes sure your teeth get the support they need. As we age, we're also more susceptible to losing our teeth, and vitamin D is a great way to prevent the need for dentures due to tooth loss.

10. Arthritis Management -- Similar to its benefits on the nerves and muscles, vitamin D's anti-inflammatory properties can be beneficial for those with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Women can lower their chances for developing rheumatoid arthritis by taking vitamin D daily to keep the joints strong with a healthy range of motion.

How to Get Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D is particularly interesting because the best source of it is the sun. Most physicians will recommended 15 to 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily, without sunscreen, when weather permits. This short time frame is safe for even fair-skinned people. Anyone who remains indoors mostly, works nights or is otherwise limited in their sun exposure can be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Food sources of vitamin D include dairy products (some are fortified with it) and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Supplements are available in various strengths, with or without calcium, to help you get the RDA of vitamin D appropriate for your gender and age.

We'll be back next week with another vitamin or supplement to be amazed by. In the meantime, stock up on your vitamin D at eVitamins.

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