What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain healthy blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It also enhances the absorption of calcium, helping to build and maintain strong bones. The role that vitamin D plays in bone health is probably its most well-known benefit.
What are some surprising vitamin D benefits for men?
We all know that vitamin D is beneficial for maintaining strong and healthy bones. But, did you know that it does so much more to help you stay healthy? Read on to learn more about four surprising vitamin D benefits for men.
1. Vitamin D is essential for muscle development.
Vitamin D plays an essential role in the development of skeletal muscle, which is the muscle attached to bones that help move the body. Adequate vitamin D is also instrumental in optimizing muscle strength and performance.
Even elite athletes can benefit from adequate vitamin D levels. In one study, researchers looked at the vitamin D blood levels of more than 200 college football athletes. Nearly 60% of these athletes had abnormal vitamin D levels, while 10% had a severe deficiency. Those athletes with lower levels of vitamin D had a higher prevalence of muscle strain and core muscle injury. Adequate levels of vitamin D are essential for high-level athletes and weekend warriors alike to optimize muscle strength.
2. Healthy vitamin D blood levels may lead to better blood sugar control.
A healthy vitamin D level may reduce the incidence of insulin resistance, and it is essential for better blood sugar control. One reason for this is that vitamin D is necessary for the proper development of pancreatic beta cells. These are the cells in your body that produce insulin.
A study found that vitamin D deficiency worsens insulin resistance in people with prediabetes. In insulin resistance, cells don’t respond well to insulin and ultimately can’t absorb much glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream. This poor regulation causes a demand in the body for more insulin to help the cells utilize glucose for energy. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to prediabetes as the pancreas tries, but fails, to keep up with the body’s demand for insulin. The imbalance ultimately leads to glucose building up in the bloodstream and prediabetes, which, if left unchecked, can develop into type 2 diabetes.
In those with type 2 diabetes, individuals with normal blood levels of vitamin D have better control of blood sugar levels.
3. Vitamin D supplementation might improve testosterone levels.
The male reproductive tract is known as a target area for vitamin D. Testosterone (a male hormone) plays a crucial role in bone mass, muscle strength, fat distribution, and even sex drive. One study found that men taking vitamin D supplements had higher testosterone levels than the placebo group.
4. Vitamin D supplementation may improve mood.
Evidence for a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression is growing. Vitamin D receptors are widespread in the brain, including the hippocampus, which is involved in the development of depression. Supplementation with vitamin D shows promise for those with depression.
How do I know if I’m deficient in vitamin D?
More than 41% of adults in the U.S. are deficient in vitamin D, with the highest rate of deficiency found in minorities. To see if you are deficient in vitamin D, your healthcare professional can do a simple blood test to measure your vitamin D (25(OH)D) level.
The Institute of Medicine proposed that a vitamin D level of 20 ng/mL is sufficient for most people, with 20-50 ng/mL considered a safe range. However, many vitamin D experts recommend maintaining at least 30 ng/mL, with 30-80 ng/mL regarded as optimal vitamin D sufficiency. While 20-30 ng/mL is considered insufficiency, and less than 20 ng/mL is recognized as vitamin D deficiency.
Lab tests commonly list 100 ng/mL as the upper limit, above which the risk of vitamin D toxicity increases.
How much vitamin D do I need?
Health experts do not agree about the optimal daily dose of vitamin D. The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 600-800 IU per day, and the upper limit for daily intake for men is 4,000 IU. It is difficult to get even 600 IU daily from food alone since you cannot consume vitamin D from many foods. Also, vitamin D researchers consider the RDA to be conservative. These experts often recommend higher doses for most adults, particularly those who have low or deficient vitamin D levels.
According to the Endocrine Society, adults with vitamin D deficiency (below 20 ng/mL), malabsorption issues, or who are obese or take certain medications may need higher doses of vitamin D daily to achieve a normal blood level (above 30 ng/mL). Speak to your healthcare provider to determine if you need to take a higher level of vitamin D.
Consider vitamin D supplementation.
Only a few foods contain vitamin D, and many healthcare professionals recommend vitamin D supplements to avoid deficiency.
Men can benefit in so many ways from having adequate vitamin D levels including maximizing muscle strength and protecting against muscle strain, improved testosterone level, protection against insulin resistance and better blood sugar control as well as possible benefits for depression.
Consult your healthcare professional to help determine what dose of vitamin D might be appropriate for you. Be sure to choose a high-quality supplement that is safe and effective.
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