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The need for vitamin D: coronavirus edition

Unless you live in a sunny climate AND sit in direct sun with exposed skin for at least 30 minutes a day, chances are you’re deficient in vitamin D. It’s one of the most common vitamin deficiencies, affecting 42 percent of the US population, and is associated with immune health, weight regulation, mental health and aging. In the current era of coronavirus, vitamin D supplementation is more important than ever. Here are the benefits of vitamin D and why we need to be taking it.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D plays an integral role in more than 1,000 different genes and serves as a substrate for sex hormones like testosterone, human growth hormone and estrogen. Humans make vitamin D on their own via the sun, but to get sufficient you’d need 30 minutes a day of direct sun exposure, which is why according to this article, it’s the most important supplement to take, based on the high rates of deficiency. If you don’t live in a sunny climate, chances are you are deficient.

Vitamin D protects you from free radical damage and moderates immune function and inflammation, which is the route of all illnesses and chronic diseases. Without enough vitamin D, you’re more likely to get a number of health issues including breast cancer, heart disease, depression and weight gain, amongst others. Research shows that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D are less likely to develop a chronic disease, which suggests that vitamin D plays a critical role in the development of disease.

In the current global climate of coronavirus, we’re not leaving our houses very much. We’re also not getting much sun because it’s winter. This makes vitamin D supplementation very important. In addition to this, to avoid getting sick, vitamin D levels need to be topped up based on the role of this vitamin and the immune system.

Studies show that vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection, particularly respiratory infections. A study that looked at more than 25 studies on vitamin D examined the results to ascertain whether vitamin D supplementation was able to decrease the prevalence of colds and flu. The researchers found that it was an effective preventative step to stay healthy during times of community sickness; in fact, for individuals who had been vitamin D deficient prior to starting the study, upon supplementation, their risk of infection was cut in half.

Interestingly, vitamin D also plays a key role in body weight regulation. Many people will be gaining weight during quarantine. Comfort eating is at an all time high, check out this NY times article, plus we're more sedentary because we're not leaving our house. So to maintain a healthy weight, cut your calories in line with your new lower level of activity, and start doing some home workouts to keep active. Another important weight regulation method is to supplement vitamin D.

Research shows that vitamin D deficiency is linked to excess belly fat. A study that included thousands of participants found a significant association between those with the lowest vitamin D levels and the highest levels of body fat. This is pretty concerning when we think about the fact that 40 percent of the US population is obese and an additional 30 percent are overweight. How many of those people are trying to lose weight but are struggling because of a vitamin D deficiency?

In fact, even if you are a healthy weight but vitamin D deficient - you’re likely going to start gaining weight. A study that examined low vitamin D levels in a group of women found that those with the lowest gained more weight over the course of the study, despite not changing their diets at all.

So why does this happen?

First of all, when you are deficient in any vitamin, your body is out of whack. A high functioning body is sufficient in all vitamins, well nourished, active and weight-stable. If you’re deficient in any vitamin, your body’s ability to reach homeostasis (a state of balance) is impaired.

Secondly, fat cells have vitamin D receptors. Scientists believe that vitamin D deficiency causes fat cells to expand. When vitamin D levels are low, your body can’t efficiently mobilize fat stores, and more energy is stored as fat rather than burned for fuel, adding to fat mass. This excess fat is disproportionately stored around the abdomen.

If you want to stay healthy and avoid infection in this time of COVID-19, vitamin D supplementation is key. It will boost your immune function and help you fight off free radical damage and pathogens, to keep your body working properly despite the prevalence of infection surrounding us all. So don’t take your chances - start supplementing vitamin D today and see how it affects your health, wellbeing and waistline.

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