Vitamin D, also known as cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2), or the sunshine vitamin, is one of the 24 micronutrients critical for human survival. In spite of the name, vitamin D is often referred to as a pro-hormone because the body is capable of producing its own vitamin D through mild sun exposure, while vitamins are nutrients that cannot be produced by the body and must be acquired by eating vitamin-rich foods or taking supplements.
It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes twice or thrice a week allows the body to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D. However, this vitamin has a half-life of only 2 weeks, meaning that vitamin D stores can be depleted. Recent studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency affects almost 50% of adults and children worldwide.  Because of the extensive benefits of vitamin D for human health, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently increased the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D for adults and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get adequate vitamin D.
The following are the recommended intakes of vitamin D throughout life: 
There are certain medical conditions and factors that can cause a deficiency in vitamin D. These include the following:
In men and women with vitamin D deficiency, the symptoms are generally subtle so they may not notice them easily, even if it’s having a significant impact in their quality of life. The common signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are the following:
If you are suffering from symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, it is recommended to consult immediately with your doctor to get your vitamin D levels checked. A detailed physical examination will also help rule out any medical conditions, risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, and other factors that may affect vitamin D levels. If left untreated, severely low levels of vitamin D can lead to osteomalacia in adults, and rickets in children. Both of these diseases can lead to soft and weak bones, bone and muscle pain, and higher incidence of fractures.
Sunlight is the most cost effective way of boosting vitamin D stores. However, for people living in northern latitudes and for dark-skinned people, getting adequate amounts of vitamin D through sun exposure can be a problem. Fortunately, they can still load up on this vitamin by consuming the following foods:
Aside from diet and sun exposure, vitamin D supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, and intramuscular injections may be necessary for older people, those living in northern latitudes, dark-skinned people, obese individuals, post bariatric surgery patients, people on vitamin D-depleting medications, and those with medical conditions that affect vitamin D levels. In fact, there is a great body of clinical evidence that shows the diverse health benefits of vitamin D in both men and women:
Vitamin D is extremely important for regulating the growth of billions of cells, enhancing their communication, and modulating general cellular function. Aside from these roles, vitamin D also has potent anti-cancer properties that can help eradicate malignant cells in the body. There is very strong clinical evidence that vitamin D supplementation may help protect against various types of cancers in both men and women:
Vitamin D plays a major role in the regulation of the immune function by turning on or off genes and processes necessary for optimum health. In fact, vitamin D is touted as a “miracle nutrient” for the immune system as it enables the body to produce hundreds of antimicrobial peptides, which helps ward off various infections and diseases. An overwhelming body of clinical evidence supports the immune-modulating properties of vitamin D:
Cognitive dysfunction can lead to confusion, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating. Interestingly, scientists found that vitamin D can function as a neurosteroid or “cognitive enhancer”, thus preventing age-related cognitive decline and improving overall mental health. A growing body of scientific evidence supports the brain-boosting properties of vitamin D:
Muscle mass and strength tend to decrease with advancing age, primarily as a result of reduced physical activity. This loss of muscle mass, medically known as sarcopenia, has negative impact on one’s ability to perform activities of daily living. Fortunately, vitamin D supplementation may be an effective method of countering age-related muscle wasting and those caused by chronic medical conditions. There is an overwhelming body of clinical research supporting the muscle-enhancing properties of vitamin D:
Vitamin D plays a major role in improving bone strength and quality. Without the “sunshine vitamin”, our bodies cannot effectively absorb calcium and phosphorus – two key nutrients in bone growth and development. There is increasing evidence that vitamin D supplementation may help improve bone health in the older population as well as those with medical conditions affecting the bones:
A healthy brain is the first line of defense against mental health problems including depression. Since vitamin D plays major role in brain health throughout all stages of life, boosting its levels may help increase energy levels and improve overall mood. Several lines of evidence support the antidepressant effect of vitamin D:
Vitamin D is believed to help lower blood sugar levels as well as diabetes risk by improving the body’s response to the effects of insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Of further interest, vitamin D status is associated with blood sugar levels, suggesting that restoration of vitamin D to healthy levels may have beneficial effects. An overwhelming body of clinical research supports the anti-diabetic properties of vitamin D:
High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, can significantly increase one’s risk of developing chronic, debilitating medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other fatal diseases. By reducing blood pressure, the risk of getting these diseases also decreases. There is strong scientific evidence that vitamin D has potent anti-hypertensive properties that can help ward off diseases associated with high blood pressure:
Just like hypertension and high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol levels can significantly increase one’s risk of developing fatal medical conditions. Fortunately, sun exposure and a high vitamin D diet can be a cost-effective way to bring down cholesterol levels within normal range. In fact, several lines of evidence support the cholesterol-lowering effect of vitamin D:
Vitamin D is also known as an anti-obesity nutrient, which is essential in maintaining a healthy weight. Several research studies found that the sunshine vitamin can help overweight and obese people lose weight safely and effectively:
Vitamin D can also help reverse heart damage and protect against cardiovascular diseases. Because it has beneficial effects on various cardiovascular parameters such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, vitamin D can be an important nutrient for the maintenance of a healthy heart. A growing number of studies support the cardiovascular effects of vitamin D:
Vitamin D levels are directly related to sleep quantity and quality. Therefore, boosting vitamin D levels through sun exposure, diet and supplements may have benefical effects on sleep. In fact, several high quality studies suggest that vitamin D has positive effects on age-related sleeping difficulties as well as sleeping disorders:
There is a fascinating relationship between vitamin D and the kidneys. Whether from supplements or from the sun, the kidneys help convert vitamin D into its active form so that it can be effectively used by the body. Newer research shows that vitamin D may play a protective role against kidney disorders and keeping the kidneys working at optimum levels:
With advancing age, sexual dysfunction occurs, resulting in decreased self-confidence and quality of life. Fortunately, vitamin D supplementation is one of the most cost-effective ways of ramping up sexual power in both men and women. There is accumulating evidence that vitamin D can help increase libido and restore sexual function while improving overall health:
Vitamin D also plays an integral part in reproduction. In women, vitamin D supplementation can drastically increase pregnancy sucesss rate. In men, loading up on vitamin D has beneficial effects on sperm quality and quantity. A growing body of clinical evidence supports the many benefits of vitamin D on various fertility markers:
Hair loss is inevitable and occurs with advancing age or it can be caused by other medical conditions. Aside from having a negative physical impact, hair loss often comes with devastating psychological consequences. Recently, medical professionals found a long-term, cost-effective solution to hair loss, thus eliminating the need for expensive medications and hair transplantation. Studies show that vitamin D supplementation alone can help fight hair loss:
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