When you spend some time in direct sunlight, a type of cholesterol in your skin is converted into vitamin D.
Vitamin D plays an important role in bone health because it helps your body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus.
It also supports your immune system by helping to reduce inflammation. It can even help reduce cancer cell growth.
Low Levels of Vitamin D
It’s estimated that around half of all people worldwide have less than optimal levels of vitamin D.
These might not always be cases of substantial deficiency, but even small reductions in vitamin D levels have been linked to an increased risk of some chronic diseases.
Around 1 billion people worldwide are estimated to be dangerously deficient in vitamin D.
A vitamin D deficiency may cause or contribute to the following:
- Joint pain
- Muscle weakness or pain
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Infectious illnesses
Many of these conditions are some of the leading causes of death, which may be why vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to an increased risk of premature death.
A long-term study published in October 2022 concluded a direct causation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality.
The study tracked the vitamin levels of more than 300,000 participants over 14 years. People with low vitamin D levels made up a significant portion of the 18,700 deaths during this timeframe.
The researchers also noted that the risk for death decreased steeply with increasing vitamin D concentrations, at least up to 50 nmol/L (the generally recommended level).
How To Get More Vitamin D
Most people can get enough vitamin D simply by spending 20-40 minutes in sunlight on a regular basis.
But this may not be possible or practical for everyone, especially during the winter months.
You also receive vitamin D from foods and drinks such as:
- egg yolks
- beef liver
- fortified foods and drinks
You can also try taking vitamin D supplements, but natural sources of vitamins are almost always a better option. Vitamin D supplements are generally not recommended without medical supervision.
Excess vitamin D is unlikely to be extra helpful once you have reached an adequate level. High levels of vitamin D can be toxic and cause serious health complications.
Your doctor can determine your vitamin levels with a simple blood test. If you are deficient, they can help you plan to increase your vitamin D intake.