Research is beginning to show that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with everything from heart disease and depression to fibromyalgia and infertility.
But there are other reasons why you may want to get your vitamin D levels checked – and some of these reasons are why vitamin D is a standard measurement we look at when evaluating our patients here at GreenLite Medicine.
The Multi-Tasking Vitamin
Nearly all the tissues in your body have vitamin D receptors, which means they require this nutrient to function properly. Adequate D levels are responsible for supporting heart muscle, brain cells, and fat tissue, as well as immunity, cell development, and metabolism.
The problem, however, is that most of us aren’t getting adequate levels of vitamin D – even to allow our bodies to simply hum along normally, much less function at optimal performance.
An estimated 1 billion people are vitamin-D deficient. In the U.S., about 25 percent of adults have insufficient levels, while 39 percent are outright deficient, according to research from the Mayo Clinic.
Diabetes and Weight Gain
What does vitamin D have to do with your waistline?
In part, it comes down to how it can affect your risk for insulin resistance – and therefore your risk for pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Being deficient in vitamin D can increase your odds of becoming insulin resistant – which affects your body’s ability to naturally regulate blood sugar. Insulin resistance also causes weight gain, especially around the abdomen, and makes it more difficult for the body to used stored fat as energy.
Left unmanaged, insulin resistance can lead to full-blown diabetes – and vitamin D deficiency may more than double your risk for that outcome .
Some studies suggest that correcting vitamin D deficiency might also help not just in preventing insulin resistance, and therefore weight gain, but also that it may assist with weight loss.
Since vitamin D has been shown to help reduce inflammation markers, it may also relieve the stressors associated with obesity and decrease risk for other health ailments that are often caused by inflammation.
Lubrication for Your Mind
Newer research also points to vitamin D’s protective properties against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
One study published in Neurology found that men and women with D levels between 25-50 nanomoles per liter (according to the National Institutes of Health, levels below 50 are considered inadequate) had a 53-percent increased risk for dementia and a 69 percent increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
People in the study with levels below 25 were more than twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or some type of dementia.
How Much ‘D’ Do You Need?
The question of how much vitamin D you should take is one that’s fraught with controversy.
The short answer is that you should have your levels checked by your doctor in order to know how much supplementation may be right for you.
Some studies suggest that people who are overweight may need higher vitamin D doses than leaner individuals – but again, this is a matter to discuss with your physician.