Most people know that vitamin D benefits bone health. But keeping bones strong is only one of the health benefits of the sunshine vitamin, which can do good things for your body in many ways. Here are three of the newest discoveries.
It can help asthma medicines work better and be more effective. Medical specialists have long known that there is a strong correlation between low vitamin D levels and the frequency and severity of asthma attacks, particularly in cases of atopic asthma (those in which the main cause is hypersensitivity of the airway).
Recent studies have shown that increasing vitamin D levels in asthma patients not only promotes healthy lung function, it also enhances the effect of corticosteroids, the drugs most commonly prescribed for asthma relief. In testing using immune cells grown in laboratory environments, it was shown that adding vitamin D or increasing the amount of vitamin D significantly increased the effectiveness of corticosteroids.
This finding could be important for asthma patients, particularly those for whom seasonal allergy triggers such as grass, pollen, etc. sometimes require increasing corticosteriod dosage. Research indicates that in many such cases, increasing the level of vitamin D in the blood can boost the effectiveness of corticosteriods enough to make increased dosage unnecessary.
It can help prevent flu. A recent study by Tokyo's Jikei University School of Medicine, published in the Journal of Clinical nutrition, suggests that supplemental D vitamin may actually be a better flu preventative than vaccines or anti-viral drugs. The double blind study involved about 350 children between the ages of six and 15. Half the children were given 1200 IU supplements of vitamin D daily, while the other half were given a placebo.
During the first month of the study the rate of infection remained the same in both groups. However, after two months it was noted that the children who were given D vitamin supplements were only half as likely to become infected.
Neither antiviral drugs, including commonly prescribed antivirals such as zanamivir or oseltamivir, nor specific anti-flu vaccines matched the success rate of vitamin D supplementation.
It can help relieve arterial stiffness associated with heart disease. A new study by the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta assigned a group of African American teenagers, all of whom tested clinically deficient in the vitamin, to take daily supplements of varying amounts. Half the participants were vitamin D supplements of 2000 IU daily, while the other half took 400 IU of Vitamin D per day as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
At the end of the study it was found that deficiency persisted in the participants taking 400 IU of the vitamin per day, while those taking 2000 IU per day achieved sufficiency. Tests on both groups also indicated that those taking the higher supplements showed measurable improvement in arterial stiffness, a condition strongly associated with heart disease and stroke.
Medical research is discovering more and more ways in which vitamin D is crucial to health, vitality, and preventing disease. Find out more about vitamin D and critical illness , or read more of the latest on vitamin D at Vitamin D Benefits .