Gum Health, DNA Protection & Other Lesser-Known Perks Of Vitamin D
Bone health, immune response, mood support—these are the benefits that most people associate with vitamin D. And while these physiological functions are certainly important, they're by no means the only ways in which this essential nutrient bolsters whole-body health. Here, we've compiled some lesser-known (but absolutely vital) vitamin D health benefits that you might not be aware of.
Considering 29% of U.S. adults1 are vitamin D deficient (and another 41% are insufficient), we'd all be smart to achieve and maintain optimal vitamin D levels so we can reap the rewards of these unexpected perks:
Healthy blood sugar balance.
Our cells use glucose (from the foods we eat) to make energy, so they can carry out critical functions throughout the body. That said, it's important to maintain balanced blood sugar levels—i.e., sufficient amounts to help cells and organ systems do their daily jobs but not too much, as suboptimal insulin sensitivity can lead to metabolic health concerns.
As it turns out, vitamin D3 supplements have been found to promote healthy, balanced levels of blood glucose2 and insulin sensitivity3 (as a reminder, insulin is the hormone that helps regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) in clinical trials.*
In a 2018 randomized controlled trial (RCT), this vitamin D3 glycemic control phenomenon was found to be especially beneficial in individuals with vitamin D deficiency.* Translation? Your vitamin D status has a direct (and profound!) impact on your ability to modulate healthy blood glucose and insulin levels and maintain metabolic well-being.
Tooth & gum health.
Vitamin D's positive effect on oral hygiene is, in my opinion, one of its most underrated health benefits.
Famous for its role in promoting bone health and integrity, vitamin D plays a similar part in tooth mineralization: It assists with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus—two minerals critical for building and maintaining strong teeth.
Research shows that vitamin D also aids the regulation of dentin and enamel formation, helps maintain the integrity of the periodontium (i.e., the gums and bone that surround and support your teeth), and even supports the oral immune response by stimulating antimicrobial peptide production4. (Not too shabby!)*
Healthy gut microbiome.
Speaking of underrated health benefits… Let's talk about vitamin D's vital role in gut health!
In a 2020 cross-sectional analysis from Nature Communications, scientists found greater gut microbiome diversity5 in men with higher levels of active vitamin D.
"The vitamin D pathway is important in the regulation of immune responses and gut health. There are different genes regulated by the vitamin D receptor that can affect the integrity of the gut barrier and the immune defenses in the gut. With deficiency of vitamin D, one could hypothesize that changes in these aspects of the gut could lead to changes in the composition of the microbiota," Adrian F. Gombart, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry at Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, previously shared with mindbodygreen.
Interestingly, a healthier gut has also been shown to absorb vitamin D more effectively—so make sure you're addressing both your vitamin D status and your overall gut health for optimal results on both fronts!
DNA protection, antioxidant activity & longevity.
While I'm certainly a big fan of vitamin D's previously mentioned functions, we should all be shouting its role in healthy aging from the rooftops!
Sustaining healthy levels of vitamin D can help you live a long and healthy life by regulating antioxidant activity, combating oxidative stress, balancing mitochondrial function, and literally protecting your DNA.
In a 2019 meta-analysis from Pharmacological Research, vitamin D supplementation, specifically, was found to help increase total antioxidant activity6 (including serum levels of master antioxidant glutathione) and promote oxidative balance throughout the body.*
A 2019 Biology review also shows that vitamin D signaling pathways literally protect proteins, fatty acids, and DNA7. The latter is critical for longevity, as the length of telomeres (the "caps" on the ends of DNA strands) is directly related to cellular aging.
Vitamin D supplements have also been found to play a role in increasing telomerase enzyme activity8 (which maintains telomere length and protects cells' ability to replicate).* What's more, a positive association between vitamin D sufficiency and telomere length was found in a 2017 study from the Archives of Medical Science.
Simply put, getting enough vitamin D is vital for optimizing longevity potential.
Vitamin D supports everything from gut and oral health to blood sugar balance and longevity, but none of these benefits are possible if you're struggling to achieve sufficiency (like so many people are).*
To achieve and sustain a truly optimal vitamin D status throughout life (not just in the winter!), consider a high-quality vitamin D supplement that optimizes form, dosage, and bioavailability, like mindbodygreen's vitamin D3 potency+.* With 5,000 IU of D3 from sustainable organic algae and built-in organic oils (olive, flaxseed, and avocado) to aid in absorption, mbg's vitamin D formula is designed to help you achieve healthy vitamin D levels and reap this amazing nutrient's many health benefits.*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.