At some point or another, you’ve probably heard about the importance of getting enough vitamin D. This nutrient helps us stay healthy at every age, supporting the body’s ability to absorb calcium and block parathyroid hormone release to support strong bones. Yet, outside of promoting bone strength, vitamin D could also help us combat potentially serious illnesses. Below are five health issues which have been linked to low vitamin D levels.
Unlike many of the other conditions on this list, schizophrenia is a condition which typically appears at a younger age. Symptoms such as social withdrawal, difficulty focusing, and hallucinations commonly develop between the ages of 16 and 30. Research shows people who are vitamin D deficient are twice as likely to be diagnosed, and specifically, individuals living in high latitudes and colder climates are at a higher risk for developing schizophrenia.
The risk for some forms of dementia, the condition in which cognitive function, behavior, and memory are compromised, is as much as two times higher in older adults with vitamin D deficiencies. Research shows that the greater the deficiency is, the higher the risk. While a direct cause-and-effect relationship has yet to be established, having vitamin D levels checked may still be a practice worth considering, especially in groups with a family history of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
3 Heart Disease
Low vitamin D blood levels have been linked to cardiovascular complications, including heart disease. Vitamin D is involved in cardiovascular function, and vitamin D receptors have been found in all cardiovascular cells and are even located in arterial walls. It’s suspected that insufficient levels of the nutrient are correlated with atherosclerosis, a build-up of fat in the artery walls which is a telltale characteristic of heart disease.
4 Erectile Dysfunction
Men with severe erectile dysfunction (ED) appear to have lower vitamin D levels than those with mild ED. While these findings were gathered through a small study, researchers theorize that the relationship between vitamin D and artery health (described in the point above) could be behind the trend. To produce and maintain an erection, there must be ample blood flow and properly functioning arteries.
5 Prostate Cancer
In a study published in 2014, researchers observed lower vitamin D levels in men who tested positive for prostate cancer, compared to their cancer-free peers. The trend was especially prevalent among African-American men. While the research didn’t suggest how vitamin D levels could lead to prostate cancer, the nutrient has been a suspected disease-fighting agent for quite some time and is said to also help reduce the risk of conditions such as multiple sclerosis and the flu virus.
While there’s still much to learn about vitamin D’s ability to defend against disease and promote better overall mental and physical health, these findings make a compelling case in the nutrient’s favor. Because the body can’t produce its own vitamin D without sunlight exposure or dietary factors, it’s important to make sure you’re taking in ample levels every day. Populations across the globe are suffering from low vitamin D, which could be attributed to dietary factors and increasing sun safety awareness. If you’re concerned about your levels, consider discussing supplementation options with your medical team.