A string of recent discoveries about the multiple health benefits of vitamin D has renewed interest in this multi-purpose nutrient while increasing awareness of the huge numbers of people who are deficient in it. At the same time, new research of this essential vitamin has even led to an appreciation of it as “nature's antibiotic.”
On issues ranging from the health of your immune system to prevention of heart disease and even vulnerability to influenza, vitamin D is now seen as one of the most critical nutrients for overall health; but it's also one of those most likely to be deficient, especially during winter when the body's production of the “sunshine vitamin” almost grinds to a halt for millions of people in the United States, Europe and other northern temperate zones.
Variations of the vitamin are even being considered for use as new therapies against tuberculosis, AIDS, and other health concerns. As such, federal experts are now considering increasing the recommended daily intake of the vitamin as more evidence of its value emerges, especially for the elderly.
“About 70 percent of the U.S population has insufficient levels of vitamin D,” said Adrian Gombart, a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. “This is a critical issue as we learn more about the many roles it may play in fighting infection, balancing your immune response, helping to address autoimmune problems, and even preventing heart disease.”
Vitamin D deficiencies were once believed to primarily affect bone health and cause rickets, but it's now understood that optimal levels of this nutrient influence much more than that.
The emerging health issues and key findings associated with global vitamin D research were outlined in a new report published in the journal Future Microbiology.
Scientists at OSU found that vitamin D induces the “expression” of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide gene. This explains, in part, how it helps serve as the first line of defense in your immune response against minor wounds, cuts, and with bacterial and viral infections.