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We hear a lot about the importance of vitamin A, vitamin C, and those good-for-you B vitamins, but it’s not so often we hear about another vitamin that scientists believe may also play a crucial role in maintaining superior health throughout life. These days, however, new research into the remarkable health benefits of vitamin D is beginning to change all of that.  

Vitamin D directly affects more than 200 genes in the body, and studies show that it plays a significant role in stimulating a healthy immune response. In fact, a new study conducted by a team of British and Canadian scientists links too little vitamin D in the diet with an increased risk of certain autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and type 1 diabetes, as well as a higher risk of certain cancers.

Researchers say it has to do with the way vitamin D binds with specific chromosomes, but the problem comes from a widespread lack of vitamin D in the diet. About one billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient, which may increase their susceptibility to certain diseases. And as people spend less time outdoors (the body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight), the problem is getting worse.

Because too little vitamin D can lead to a breakdown in overall health, many experts are now recommending steps to remedy the problem. Certain foods such as eggs and fatty fish contain vitamin D, and many fish oil supplements will include vitamin D to help make up for what’s lacking in the diet. Pregnant women and young children especially may benefit from a daily vitamin D supplement for preventative health, and spending at least 10 minutes in the sun each day is also recommended.

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