Vitamin D is making the headlines more and more – barely a week goes by without another study linking to a reduced risk. Research has linked the vitamin to a reduced risk of depression, breast cancer and colds and chest infections.
But what is it, how much do we need, and why is it so vital to our health?
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, both needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D is involved in the activation of macrophages – the hunter-killer cells that engulf and destroy invading viruses, bacteria and even fungi. Vitamin D receptors are also present on other immune cells which fight infection and regulate our allergic responses and inflammation.
The nutrient is also involved in the production of antibiotic-like proteins in the cells lining the respiratory tract. Known as defensins, these proteins stick to bacterial walls and open up holes so bacteria become leaky and implode. Defensins are also active against viruses. It’s therefore not surprising people who have low vitamin D levels – especially in winter – are more prone to colds, influenza, bronchitis and even pneumonia.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are so many more health benefits to making sure you get your vitamin D in daily.