Vitamin D can boost your exercise performance and lower your heart disease risk.
According to a study presented at the annual conference of the Society for Endocrinology held at Edinburgh, taking vitamin D can actually improve your exercise performance and lower your risk of having a heart disease.
Vitamin D is known to be both a vitamin and a hormone, and has its main functions in the maintenance of the levels of calcium and phosphate in the blood, and is important in the formation of bones and teeth. Apart from this, vitamin D has also other important functions such as immunomodulation and the like. Natural sources of vitamin D include oily fish and eggs, but acquiring vitamin D from diet alone is not enough to reach the daily recommended intake. Humans usually generate most of their vitamin D by exposure of the skin to ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Ultraviolet B rays convert 7-dehydrocholesterol found in the skin to vitamin D.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
Previous researches suggest that vitamin D has the ability to block the action of the enzyme 11-HSD1, which is the enzyme involved in the production of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have various effects, such as constricting arteries and narrowing blood vessels (causing high blood pressure), as well as stimulating the kidneys to retain water. As mentioned, vitamin D has the indirect ability to lower levels of cortisol, which means that it could theoretically improve exercise performance and lower risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
The study was conducted by researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. Thirteen healthy adults were matched by age and weight and were given 50 mg of vitamin D per day or a placebo for a period of two weeks.
Adults who were taking vitamin D were observed to have lower blood pressure compared to those taking placebo, and were also seen to have lower levels of cortisol in their urine. A fitness test was also conducted against the subjects, and the group that was taking vitamin D was able to cycle at an average of 6.5 km in 20 minutes, compared to the baseline of 5 km at the start of the study. Even though the group taking vitamin D cycled 30% further in the same time, they also showed lower signs of physical exertion as compared to the placebo group.
In England, around 10 million people are thought to have low vitamin D levels in their body. One in ten adults have low vitamin D levels, whereas there are two out of five people during winter. Skin color is actually also a factor in vitamin D production in the body. People with darker skin are known to be less efficient in using sunlight to produce vitamin D, so up to three out of four adults with dark skin are vitamin D deficient in winter.
Dr. Raquela Revuelta Iniesta, co-author, says that the pilot study shows that taking vitamin D as a supplement is able to improve fitness level and lower cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure. They plan to perform a larger clinical trial for a more extended period of time and in both healthy individuals as well as specific groups of people such as athletes.
Vitamin D deficiency is a silent syndrome linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and a higher risk for certain cancers, says Dr. Emad Al-Dujaili, lead author. He believes that their study adds to the treasury of information that shows the importance of taking on a widespread problem such as vitamin D deficiency.
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Written by: Yevgeny Aster Dulla, MSc