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15 Health Benefits of Vitamin D

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5. May Reduce the Risk of Premature Death

Vitamin D may help you live a longer life.

Indeed, several studies describe a remarkably consistent link between blood vitamin D levels and the risk of dying prematurely (50, 51).

For instance, a Cochrane review looked at 50 randomized controlled studies—the gold standard in scientific research.

It found that people taking vitamin D supplements had a 6 percent lower risk of premature death (52).

Therefore, those getting enough vitamin D through the sun, their diet or supplements may be adding a few extra years to their lives.

Bottom Line: Maintaining good vitamin D levels may slightly reduce your risk of dying prematurely.

6. Diminishes Symptoms of Depression

Researchers are now discovering that vitamin D may also have an effect on depression.

The vitamin's exact role in the development of depression is not fully understood. One theory suggests it increases the amount of serotonin in the brain, which is a known contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness (53, 54).

Accordingly, a recent review reports that low vitamin D levels may increase the likelihood of depression by up to 131 percent (55).

However, research to date hasn't provided clear evidence that vitamin D supplements are effective at treating or preventing depression (54, 55, 56, 57).

Interestingly, it may depend on the severity of symptoms.

For example, vitamin D supplements seem most effective at reducing symptoms in individuals with strong symptoms of depression, but less effective in those with moderate or light symptoms (58).

However, more studies are needed to support these effects and determine what supplement recommendations are most effective.

Bottom Line: Vitamin D may help prevent or reduce symptoms of depression, particularly in individuals with strong symptoms.

7. Increases Muscle Strength

Recent studies show a link between vitamin D, muscle growth and strength, in both adults and the elderly.

A recent review looked at the effects of vitamin D on athletic and non-athletic adults.

It found that those given vitamin D supplements increased their upper and lower body strength slightly more than those given no supplements (59).

Similarly, several studies examined how vitamin D affects muscle strength, the risk of falls and frailty in the elderly. A large majority found that supplementing led to better increases in muscle strength and fewer falls than a placebo (60, 61).

Daily doses of 20–25 mcg (800–1,000 IU) seem sufficient to cause improvements in elderly people. The benefits appear to be strongest in individuals with low vitamin D levels to begin with (60).

Studies performed on younger individuals report using vitamin D dosages up to eight times as high. Thus, it is possible that stronger dosages may be required to see any increases in muscle strength in younger individuals (59).

However, more studies are needed before definitive recommendations can be made.

Bottom Line: Maintaining good levels of vitamin D may help increase muscle strength. It may also reduce the risk of falls and frailty in the elderly.

8. May Help Prevent and Treat Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that involves the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves of the eyes.

Certain studies suggest that adequate blood vitamin D levels may help lower the risk of MS by up to 62 percent (62, 63).

Individuals with MS who are able to maintain high vitamin D levels may slow down the progression of their disease (64, 65).

However, only a limited number of studies have been done in this population (66).

Bottom Line: Vitamin D may help lower MS risk and slow its progression. However, more studies are needed.

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