October 23, 2020 4 min read


Vitamin D production is the result of complex metabolic pathways that get initially triggered by the sunlight (i.e., photons).

As a result of this mechanism, people often experience low vitamin D levels during the autumn (this time of the year) and winter seasons.

This deficiency negatively impacts metabolism, the immune system, bone health, and weight.

In this article, we will cover the main health benefits of vitamin D, as well as the potential consequences of its deficiency.

What are the benefits of vitamin D?

Promotes muscle growth and strength

The size of your lean muscle mass is subject to numerous factors, including age, gender, body type, degree of physical activity, and diet.

As you can see, not all of these factors are modifiable, leaving physical activity and diet as the only factors you can control.

Over the years, researchers established that low levels of vitamin D in the blood leads to weak muscles, which negatively impacts your physical performance and increases the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

In a 2015 meta-analysis, scientists reviewed 6 randomized controlled trials to inspect the real effect of vitamin D supplementation on muscular strength.

This review included 310 adults who received varying dosages (4,000 – 60,000 IU) of vitamin D every week.

At the end of the study, scientists concluded that vitamin D is extremely effective at promoting muscle hypertrophy (i.e., growth) and strength.

Note: a meta-analysis is an epidemiological study with the highest standards. It is considered one of the best types of studies to confirm or exclude a certain phenomenon.

Increases bone mineral density

As we age, bone mineral density (BMD) gradually decreases, which augments the risk of osteoporosis. This condition is especially prevalent in post-menopausal women but could affect people at any age when vitamin D deficiency is present.

Osteoporosis manifests as non-traumatic fractures that occur in various settings.

Fortunately, vitamin D interferes with the metabolism of calcium and phosphate (two major components of bone tissue). Consequently, the body will upregulate the action of osteoblasts (cells that promote stronger bones) and suppress the activity of osteoclasts (cells that breakdown bone tissue).

Boosts cardiovascular health

The incidence of cardiovascular disease has skyrocketed over the past few years due to a variety of reasons.

According to the World Health Organization, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, with approximately 18 million deaths every year.

While taking a single supplement is not sufficient to reverse serious damage in your heart and vessels, vitamin D is still an effective substance that promotes cardiovascular function and reduces the risk of defects. (1,2,3)

Promotes weight loss

Researchers found that low vitamin D concentration is often linked to high body mass index (BMI) and obesity. The primary mechanism that explains this issue comes down to vitamin D’s hunger-suppressing properties.

In a 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis, scientists inspected 11 clinical trials to decipher the relationship between vitamin D and weight loss.

The review found that participants who took vitamin D supplements had:

  • A 0.32 kg/m2 decrease in their BMI
  • A 1.42 cm decrease in their waist circumference

Researchers also noted that adding calcium to the mix optimizes this effect.

BMI: the body mass index is a numerical parameter that takes into account your height and weight to estimate whether you’re underweight, average, or overweight.

Optimizes the function of the immune system

As you may know, the proper function of your immune system reduces the risk of infections and autoimmune diseases.

Unsurprisingly, vitamin D is a vital compound for your immunity. It primarily boosts the action of T-cells and macrophages (immune cells). As a result, your immune system becomes more efficient at eradicating foreign pathogens.

In a 2011 paper, researchers analyzed the relationship between vitamin D and the immune system. They found that low serum levels of vitamin D increase the risk of infections and immune-related disorders.

Vitamin D deficiency

The incidence of vitamin D deficiency has been on the rise despite the endless efforts of providing people with dietary supplementation and vitamin D-enriched foods.

The most common signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

Susceptibility to infections

As mentioned above, vitamin D is vital for the normal function of the immune system; therefore, its deficiency disrupts immune cells and increases the risk of infections (e.g., the flu, COVID-19).

Generalized fatigue

While this symptom is not usually present in typical vitamin D deficiency, extremely low levels of this vitamin could lead to asthenia (i.e., exhaustion).

Lower back pain

Vitamin D is important for calcium and phosphate metabolism, as it helps in gastrointestinal absorption of these minerals and minimizes calcium loss through urine.

Low levels of vitamin D predisposes people toosteoporosis, low back pain, and muscle aches.

Major depressive disorder

Providing depressive patients with vitamin D helps improve their mood and tempers down the symptoms of depression.

Disrupted wound healing

Vitamin D is an important factor that interferes with wound healing and scar formation. When deficient, patients may experience recurrent infections and poor scar healing.

The causes of vitamin D deficiency

There areseveral factors that may cause vitamin D deficiency, including:

  • Tanned skin
  • Age extremes (e.g., babies, elderly adults)
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Poor socioeconomic status
  • Limited exposure to sunlight
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Sunscreen overuse

Vitamin D dosage

The typical 1000 IU of vitamin D3 supplementation may be sufficient for the average Caucasian who gets exposed regularly to the sunlight. However, individuals at risk of becoming deficient may need a lot more than that.

On the other end of the spectrum, too much supplementation leads to hypercalcemia (i.e., high levels of calcium, digestive problems (e.g., constipation), and kidney damage.

For this reason, it is crucial to keep your serum levels of vitamin D in the normal range.

The figure below demonstrates the different levels of vitamin D and their respective interpretations:

Vitamin D Dosage levels table

Takeaway message

Vitamin D is an essential compound that offers a myriad of health benefits to the human body.

Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on the positive effects of taking vitamin D supplementation, as well as the potential side effects of its deficiency.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comment section below.

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