With the days getting shorter and chilly weather starting to set in, the autumn months can deprive us of the much needed ‘sunshine vitamin’. When we are exposed to direct sunlight, our bodies can produce vitamin D; however, science shows that our levels deplete during the autumn and winter months, putting many at risk for health complications.
In fact, you may be surprised at how many people have significant decreases in vitamin D during the autumn and winter. A recent study conducted at Vanderbilt University examined vitamin D levels of 244 women during the winter months and found that over 50 percent of them had levels that counted as either vitamin D deficient or insufficient. In comparison to vitamin D levels observed by the scientists during the summer months, this winter-time drop was substantial.
Maintaining vitamin D levels during the winter months is important for numerous reasons. Not only has vitamin D long been touted as a key player in bone health, but over the last decade research has discovered that vitamin D plays important roles in the immune system, ageing, and metabolism, to name a few. Here are five reasons why it is important to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D this autumn and winter:
1. Activate T-cells in the immune system. Ever wonder why more people fall victim to the sniffles, coughs, and sore throats during autumn? Research out of the Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen found that T-cells (active cells of the immune system) are not as efficient when there is a lack of vitamin D (1). Without vitamin D, T-cells will not mobilise or perform their vital functions when exposed to invading pathogens.
2. Age well. Telomere length represents an important biomarker of ageing – as we age, telomeres get shorter and this causes the onset of various age-related complications and diseases. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that subjects with lower levels of vitamin D also had shorter leukocyte (white blood cell) telomere length (2). The cumulative effects of oxidative stress, nutrient deficiencies, and telomere shortening are likely culprits behind accelerated ageing.
3. Support muscle strength. Vitamin D metabolites have been found to affect muscle metabolism through multiple pathways including gene transcription. Because of this, adequate vitamin D levels are especially important for elderly individuals who are subject to both bone and muscle weakness. New research is also investigating the improvement of athletic performance through vitamin D supplementation.
4. Feel good. Vitamin D receptors are even found on brain cells. The active form of vitamin D stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being or happiness. Ever felt pleasantly relaxed after a healthy amount of sun bathing? Vitamin D may be the one to thank.
5. Lower metabolic syndrome risk. People tend to think that fat cells are inanimate blobs of lard. However, they’re actually active participants in telling the brain whether or not you are full. Fat cells secrete a hormone called leptin that tells your brain when you are full and done eating. Lack of vitamin D may interfere with this appetite-suppressing hormone and can lead to obesity and its related diseases. A study out of the University of Minnesota found that participants with the highest intakes of vitamin D were less likely to have abdominal obesity, low HDL, and high blood glucose.
As Michael Holick, Ph.D., M.D., states in his book the Vitamin D Solution, “The fact that every tissue and cell in your body has vitamin D receptors raises one question: why would those receptors be there if they weren’t meant to have any effect?” To make sure your body is getting the nutrition it needs during the autumn and winter months, make sure you get your vitamin D from Ageless Actives.
- von Essen MR, Kongsbak M, Schjerling P, Olgaard K, Odum N, Geisler C. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nat Immunol 2010;11:344-9.
- Richards JB, Valdes AM, Gardner JP et al. Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1420-5.