Most of us know that vitamin D helps build strong, healthy bones and teeth, and some of us know that it has other health benefits, from protection against serious diseases to support our immune system. But does vitamin D also give you energy?
To some extent, vitamin D plays a role in reducing fatigue and increasing energy levels. This is because it helps the function of mitochondria in body cells, which is responsible for creating energy.
Here, we dug deeper into the research on vitamin D and energy, and spoke to the experts to explain how it all works.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D (sometimes called calciferol) is a vitamin we get from sun exposure, certain foods, and supplements. It allows the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from food passing through the intestine, which helps to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. If we don’t get enough vitamin D, our bones can become brittle, weak and misshapen.
There are several other health benefits of vitamin D:
- It supports a strong and healthy immune system by fighting bacteria and viruses
- It regulates heart function and reduces blood pressure
- It may reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis
There is also evidence that low levels of vitamin D may contribute to poor mood, according to a study published in Depression and Anxiety (opens in a new tab) log. However, we need more research to establish the exact link.
Does vitamin D affect your energy level?
The evidence suggests yes. According to the Cleveland Clinic (opens in a new tab)some of the main symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults are fatigue, muscle weakness and low mood, all of which can make us feel depressed and exhausted.
A double-blind trial in medicine (opens in a new tab) diary compared the results of two groups suffering from fatigue and vitamin D deficiency. One group received vitamin D supplements, while the other received a placebo. Researchers found that the group given vitamin D experienced significant improvements in their energy levels in just four weeks.
Dietitian Rahaf Al Bochi, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (opens in a new tab), also tells Live Science that vitamin D deficiency is associated with low energy levels. “Vitamin D has been shown in research to aid the function of mitochondria in body cells, which is responsible for creating energy,” she says.
Al Bochi is a Registered Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She practices through an intuitive food approach and specializes in the Mediterranean food model. She is a member of the Academy’s Nutrition Entrepreneurs dietary practice group and a graduate of Ryerson University.
This research was published in Endocrine Abstracts (opens in a new tab) and found that vitamin D supplementation in deficient adults improved muscle function by turbo-charging mitochondria – the batteries our cells need to function. Every patient in the study reported an improvement in their energy levels after taking a fixed dose of vitamin D for 10 to 12 weeks.
Where is vitamin D found?
“Your body can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight,” says Al Bochi. In fact, most people get their vitamin D this way in the summer, according to the National Institutes of Health. (opens in a new tab)and it doesn’t take much exposure for your body to start producing it.
However, the Skin Foundation (opens in a new tab) warns that even short, limited exposure is more than enough to cause DNA damage that triggers genetic mutations, increasing your lifetime risk of skin cancer.
Older people and people with brown or black skin are less likely to benefit from sun exposure because their skin is less able to make vitamin D from the sun. And only some people want to expose their arms, legs and face in public.
Although it’s hard to get all the vitamin D you need from food alone, some foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. These include: fortified foods and beverages such as milk or infant cereals -lunch, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and fish liver oils, egg yolks, cheese and certain mushrooms.
“A vitamin D supplement may be needed, especially during the winter months when sun exposure is limited,” adds Al Bochi.
The NIH recommends taking 400 international units (IU) per day for children up to one year old, 600 IU for people aged 1 to 70, and 800 IU for people over 70.
If you’re not sure how much vitamin D you should take, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for advice. Too much vitamin D can cause a buildup of calcium in the blood, leading to nausea, vomiting, and weakness. It can even lead to a potentially serious condition called hypervitaminosis D.
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