Vitamin D is known to increase bone strength by improving your body’s ability to absorb calcium. However, that isn’t the only trick up the sunshine vitamin’s sleeve.
New research has shown that vitamin D can actually fight depression, and reduce pain in type 2 diabetic women experiencing depression.
The first study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine this December, showed the effect of a diet low in vitamin D on middle-aged rats. Low levels of the sunshine vitamin caused noticeable free radical damage to various parts of the rats’ brains. The rats’ performances in cognitive learning and memory tests also reduced dramatically.
The lead researcher of the study, Allan Butterfield, Ph.D., professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Chemistry, and director of the Free Radical Biology in Cancer Core of the Markey Cancer Centre, says that vitamin D helps fight oxidization in the brain. By maintaining adequate vitamin D levels within the body, we can prevent brain damage from free radicals.
Another study, conducted at Loyola University, Chicago, highlights the link between the vitamin D and depression. The findings suggest that vitamin D can significantly counter the effects of depression. Within two weeks of introducing the supplement to depressed, type 2 diabetic women, the researchers noticed a significant positive change in the patients’ levels of depression.
In addition to reducing depression, the researchers at Loyola also noted that, within a few months, the 50,000 IU (international unit) per week supplementation caused a dramatic drop in the level of pain and numbness experienced by these type 2 diabetic patients. Todd Doyle, Ph.D. and lead author of the study, stated that pain is one of the biggest problems facing diabetic women today.
Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers and even heart disease. This study supports the hypothesis that our bodies depend on vitamin D to stay healthy. Now is the time to consult with your doctor to determine your vitamin D levels.
Sue Penckofer, Ph.D., co-author of the Loyola study, said that vitamin D has widespread benefits for our health. She made specific reference to diabetes, but also acknowledged overall health benefits of the sunshine vitamin. Her team will expand its research with funds from the National Institute of Nursing Research, and begin to compare the effects of varying doses of vitamin supplementation.
Vitamin D is indeed a versatile and hugely beneficial supplement, but how much of it does the body really need? To answer that question, Health Canada set up a suggested vitamin D dietary allowance.
Health Canada recommends between 800 and 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. It also suggests that anyone over the age of 40 take a 400 IU vitamin D supplement.
The benefits of vitamin D make it an excellent supplement to begin incorporating into our daily health routines. Vitamin D supplementation is an easy and cost-effective form of therapy, and it has little or no side effects. Vitamin D can be obtained through supplements, a healthy diet with fatty fish and plenty of vegetables, and a regular walk in the sunshine.