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  • Writer's pictureCara Blanchard

Exploring the importance of Vitamin D: Part II

In Part I of this series we wrote about Vitamin D being an essential nutrient which plays a fundamental role in maintaining our overall health and well-being, and the key to obtaining it’s benefits while minimising the risk of skin cancer. In Part II we will explore the benefits of adequate vitamin D levels, including some interesting emerging research.

a platter with foods high in healthy oils and micronutrients
Healthy Food Platter

Vitamin D, often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, is primarily synthesised in our skin when exposed to sunlight. But what does it do once it is present in our bodies?


  • Benefit 1: Cardiovascular Health A recently published Australian study in over 20,000 adults concluded that Vitamin D supplementation might reduce the incidence of major cardiovascular events, particularly myocardial infarction (heart attacks). This protective effect could be more prevalent for those taking statins or other cardiovascular drugs and may be a useful addition to their medication regime.


  • Benefit 2: Bone Health Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium, which gives your bones their strength and hardness. Without enough Vitamin D in our system our bones may not be able to take up enough calcium, and this can lead to a loss of bone density and increased risk for osteoporosis and fractures. Severe vitamin D deficiency in children can also lead to rickets, which is a rare disease that causes the bones to become soft and bend.


  • Benefit 3: Brain Health Vitamin D is increasingly recognized as a necessary neuro-steroid as it is involved in regulating many genes important for brain function. Adequate year-round levels of Vitamin D can be neuro-protective against Dementia and Schizophrenia, and supplementation has been shown to be useful at improving cognitive aging.


  • Benefit 4: Gut Health Adequate Vitamin D levels are important for the absorption of important nutrients such as magnesium, phosphate, iron and zinc in the gut. It is also useful for protecting the gut by influencing immune function and reducing inflammation. Further, Vitamin D may regulate the gut microbiota, with supplementation increasing healthy bacteria in the gut, while dysregulation of Vitamin D has been shown to be related microbial imbalance.


So, how do you get enough Vitamin D?

Sunlight is a natural and abundant source of vitamin D. Most people in New Zealand will have adequate Vitamin D levels from short daily exposures to the sun. However the intensity of UVB needed to generate vitamin D does vary based on factors like latitude, the season and time of the day. NIWA provides a year-round daily guide of the UV throughout New Zealand and the app invites you to enter your skin type and can provide behavioural advice on the time required to get your vitamin D - Check out the app here!


Other sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils. Beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese also have small amounts of vitamin D, as do some mushrooms.


If you have prolonged limited sun exposure or are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency (such as those with darker skin types) consult with your healthcare provider to determine if vitamin D supplementation is necessary for you especially during the winter months.

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