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Why is Vitamin D so important?


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Early science understood the calcium homeostasis role of Vitamin D and bone health. However, we now know that vitamin D plays a major biological role in human physiology, cell differentiation, proliferation (1) and immunity. In our new understanding, we realise it is no longer recommended to have merely sufficient levels of Vitamin D to avoid rickets. Optimum levels are required to achieve optimal immune function, as well as good physiological and mental health.

Rickets & bone health

In the 18th Century, humans became aware that consumption of Cod liver oil, which is high in vitamin D, treated and prevented rickets. Prevention of rickets requires serum levels of 20-30 ng/ml in blood serum. However, optimal immune health function requires far higher levels. It is suggested that we aim for between 80 – 225 nmol/ml.
Vitamin D helps osteoporosis

Chronic non-infectious diseases

Prof. Holick suggests that Vitamin D deficiency not only causes rickets among children but also precipitates and exacerbates osteoporosis among adults and causes the painful bone disease osteomalacia. The bigger picture, in fact, is that vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with increased risks of deadly cancers, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes mellitus,  and other chronic diseases. (2) (3)

Hands hold MRI scan of head, neck and brain of patient, holding in hands.

Brain & neurological health

Cognitive impairment, dementia, psychosis, and autism have been added to the list of ailments that are linked to decreased vitamin D levels (4). Vitamin D, as a steroid hormone has been found to be neuroprotective. (5)

“We know there are receptors for vitamin D throughout the central nervous system and in the hippocampus,” said Robert J. Przybelski, a doctor and research scientist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “We also know vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth.” In addition, animal and laboratory studies suggest vitamin D protects neurons and reduces inflammation. (6)
Aged man with manometer cuff around his arm

Heart Health

Optimum levels for Cardiovascular protection the following levels have been suggested. (7)

Vitamin D deficiency not only is more common in Heart Failure compared to non-heart failure controls 25(OH)D <25 nmol/L (28% versus 22%) but also has been shown to be an independent predictor for increased mortality in heart failure patients. In the LURIC Study, a large cohort of subjects referred for coronary angiography found 92% of individuals had suboptimal 25(OH)D levels (<75 nmol/L) and 22% were severely deficient (<25 nmol/L) (8)

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