Vitamin D – nicknamed the "sunshine vitamin" due to its ability to be absorbed by the body through sunlight – is a major player in keeping the human body healthy. Its main job is to promote calcium absorption, making it necessary for bone growth and bone remodelling. Because of that, a lack of vitamin D can lead to thin, brittle, or misshapen bones. But vitamin D offers a range of other benefits too, ranging from positives for both physical and mental health. Here are seven vitamin D benefits you need to know about.

Vitamin D strengthens your bones

Vitamin D is famous for its bone-building and strengthening powers. Vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium in your gut, which ultimately allows for normal mineralisation of your bones. Basically, the calcium that benefits your bones wouldn't be able to do its job without vitamin D. You need vitamin D for bone growth – and to prevent bones from becoming brittle. When teamed with calcium, it can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that signifies that the density and quality of bone are reduced.

Vitamin D can help strengthen muscles

Along with its bone-building abilities, vitamin D is also influential in strengthening muscles. Lack of vitamin D in the body can increase the risk of having weak muscles, which in turn increases the risk of falls. This is especially important for the elderly. Vitamin D may help increase muscle strength thus preventing falls, which is a common problem that leads to substantial disability and death in older adults.

Vitamin D can support the immune system and fight inflammation

Vitamin D can also help build immunity. It can support the immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. In fact, this role in possibly preventing infections has become a critical concern during Covid-19 pandemic, as researchers are interested in its potential role in infection outcomes. There is particular interest in its role in viral infections such as influenza and coronavirus. Studies indicate that high latitudes and winter season are risk factors for both low vitamin D, increased influenza, and other respiratory illness and adverse outcomes. We now are seeing a similar pattern with higher mortality rates in Covid-19 infections, though more research still needs to be done to determine whether the link is causal or merely a correlation.

Vitamin D can help strengthen oral health

Because vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium, it plays a crucial role in supporting oral health, lowering the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. A 2011 review in The Journal of the Tennessee Dental Association notes that while the research is scant, there's an emerging hypothesis that the vitamin is beneficial for oral health, due to its effect on bone metabolism and its ability to function as an anti-inflammatory agent and stimulate the production of anti-microbial peptides.

Vitamin D can help prevent Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

While studies are not conclusive, vitamin D may be helpful for preventing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. One such study, published in 2006 in the journal Diabetes Care, found that while vitamin D on its own did not effectively lower the risk of an overabundance of sugar in the blood, a combined daily intake of more than 1,200 mg calcium and more than 800 IU vitamin D could effectively lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Vitamin D can help you lose weight

Obesity is a known risk factor for low vitamin D levels – which means more vitamin D may help with weight loss. One 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that, in overweight or obese women with low calcium levels, those who took a daily dose of calcium paired with vitamin D were more successful shedding pounds than those who took a placebo supplement, due to an appetite-suppressing effect of the combination.

Vitamin D can help battle depression

The sun can brighten up your mood, and so can vitamin D. According to a 2017 review article in the journal Neuropsychology, researchers found "a significant relationship between depression and vitamin D deficiency.” While they acknowledged that more research is needed to define the exact workings of it – such as, if low vitamin D levels are a cause or effect of depression – the authors recommend “screening for and treating vitamin D deficiency in subjects with depression” noting that it is an “easy, cost-effective and may improve depression outcome.”