The 5 Benefits of Vitamin D

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Vitamin D is best known for three things: It helps build strong bones, it’s why you should drink your milk, and it has something to do with sunshine (“sunshine vitamin D,” as the catchphrase goes). All this is true, but there’s a lot more to know about the benefits this essential vitamin provides.

5 Multiple Sclerosis

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Studies show a positive connection between vitamin D and lowered incidence of multiple sclerosis. This may be in part due to the connection between vitamin D and sunshine, as the chance of having multiple sclerosis goes down the closer one lives to the equator.

4 Improves Muscle Function

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Recent research evidence has found that vitamin D improves muscle function and muscle strength. This is important information for individuals who suffer from chronic muscle or joint pain, as well as for anyone who exercises or participates in sports on a regular basis—especially so for girls and women; for them, maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D can help even out the natural advantage men have in the area of muscle strength. Physical fatigue in general can also be caused by too-low levels of vitamin D.

3 Cold and Flu Protection

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It’s always important to have adequate levels of vitamin D in your body, but especially in the winter, and then especially if you live in a four-season climate. Although cold and flu protection is often associated with vitamin C, some studies suggest a connection between vitamin D intake and fewer and less severe colds. For example, a study conducted in 2009 that compared regional patterns of mortality rates connected to disease and complications of disease during 1918 and 1919—the year when about 500,000 people died in a flu pandemic—found that significantly fewer deaths and/or disease complications occurred in southern, and significantly more in northern, climes. With the caveat that correlation is not necessarily causation, these results suggest that vitamin D (which, you’ll recall, is manufactured in your body when the sun hits your skin) might be a factor in preventing and/or lessening the severity of flu and colds.

2 Cardiovascular Benefits

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Research evidence has shown a connection between vitamin D deficiency and increased incidence of fatal heart attacks, stroke and cardiovascular disease in general. One recent study revealed that the heart-healthy benefits of vitamin D may be associated with receptors in the heart muscle. Vitamin D is also associated with lowering high blood pressure—high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.

1 Source of Calcium and Phosphorus

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All vitamins work by helping your body absorb certain nutrients that you need to stay healthy—in the case of vitamin D, it’s calcium and phosphorus. Both of these nutrients aid in keeping bones strong. A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to serious medical conditions such as osteoporosis (brittle bones), arthritis and rickets. The last is a deformity of the skeleton most commonly seen in children. In addition to milk, eggs, and other dairy products, fish, cod liver oil, and fresh fruits and vegetables are all good sources of vitamin D.

Kathy Kattenburg has been a writer for more than 30 years. Her articles have been published in "N.J. Jewish News" and "Suburban Essex," and she is a contributing writer at the political blog The Moderate Voice. Kattenburg has a B.A. in English literature from Drew University in Madison, N.J.

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