Vitamin D deficiency affects over half the population and is rarely diagnosed. However, scientists have discovered that almost every cell and tissue in the body has a receptor site for vitamin D.
Your body converts D3 into calcitriol (active vitamin D) that controls the expression of over 1000 genes in the body. That’s 1/24th of the human genome.
Vitamin D is so important to the body, that we’re adapted to making it using something as readily available as the sun.
Our ancestors didn’t have sunscreen and most of them spent their days outdoors. Today we’re mostly inside in our homes or offices and when we get outside we’re covering our skin in clothes or cream to protect us from the only thing that can give us vitamin D: Sunlight and UVB radiation.
Fish and egg yolks are the only food sources of vitamin D, but regardless of origin and amounts consumed, Vitamin D must be transformed by the body before it can do us any good. How we transform vitamin D into its active form is largely dependent on our genes.
New light on the sunshine vitamin. Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D is not just needed for the development of strong bones, it is also needed for a strong immune system, to lower inflammation, and to improve or prevent some chronic conditions like heart disease and depression.
While scientists continue to explore the full extent of vitamin D’s impact on human health, we wanted to keep you in the loop and offer 3 interesting lesser-known health benefits of Vitamin D, you possibly didn’t know about:
1. Vitamin D is needed to make serotonin
“You can take a person and deplete them of their tryptophan (which is the precursor of serotonin) and these normal otherwise healthy people become very impulsive, they get angry, irritable, anxious, depressed and their long term decision making shuts down.” – Rhonda Patrick, Ph. D
Vitamin D activates the gene called Tryptophan hydroxylase that converts Tryptophan into Serotonin. Serotonin is what you might know as the “happy hormone” but it’s a neurotransmitter that does a whole lot of other important stuff. It regulates things like social behavior, appetite, digestion, sleep patterns (here’s a blog post on sleep optimization in case you’re interested in getting better at snoozing), influences romantic desire and balances mood. Several studies have shown experimentally that serotonin is important for overall brain function.
2. Vitamin D regulates the aging process
If you have short telomeres, you’re biologically old. If you have long telomeres, you’re biologically younger.
Vitamin D seems to affect the way we age via multiple mechanisms including through our telomeres. Telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes (like the plastic tape around the ends of shoelaces that stop them from unraveling). Telomeres protect our DNA from damage and deterioration and every year our telomeres get shorter and shorter.
Vitamin D activates DNA repair genes and anti-inflammatory genes to reduce damage at the telomere. Individuals with the lowest levels of vitamin D also had the shortest telomeres. Individuals in the highest quartiles (40-46 ng/ml) of vitamin D had an increased lifespan.
3. There is a link between low Vitamin D levels and increased body fat
Vitamin D stimulates insulin production and is important for Diabetes management and for weight loss. Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in our fat. A higher body fat percentage can decrease the bio availability of vitamin D3 by as much as 50% by soaking up the vitamin D and preventing it from making its way to our other tissues. This means that overweight and obese individuals may have less vitamin D that is available to be used by the body.
So how much is enough vitamin D?
Experts say 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily—about the amount your body will synthesize from 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week—is the ideal range for almost all healthy adults. Keep in mind, however, that skin color, genetics, where you live and how much skin you have exposed all affect how much vitamin D you can produce.
How do our genes affect vitamin D levels?
Knowing how efficient your body is at capturing, making and storing vitamin D is essential because sometimes, even if you’re getting enough sunshine, you might be genetically less efficient at producing vitamin D.
The VDR gene provides instructions for making a protein called vitamin D receptor (VDR), which allows the body to respond to vitamin D.
To learn more about your VDR gene and your body’s ability to make and use vitamin D, consider a 3×4 Genetic Test and begin your personalized health journey today.
Listen to your body. #AskYourGenes.
Do it for your genome.
Daily Choices is an online wellness publication dedicated to delivering fresh evidence-based advice to a community of people who are curious about how to feel - and live- better.
By sharing what we know about modern health and nutrigenomics (that’s food x genes), we hope to inspire you to figure out which lifestyle choices might bring you closer to the life you want.
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