Does vitamin D give you energy?
By Joanne Lewsley
Most of us know that vitamin D builds strong, healthy bones and teeth, and some of us know that it has other health benefits, from protecting against serious diseases to supporting our immune system. But does vitamin D give you energy too?
To an extent, vitamin D does play a role in reducing fatigue and boosting energy levels. This is because it aids the function of the mitochondria within the body’s cells, which is responsible for creating energy.
Here, we’ve taken a deeper dive into the research around vitamin D and energy, and spoken to the experts to explain how it all works.
Vitamin D (sometimes referred to as calciferol) is a vitamin that we obtain from exposure to sunlight, certain foods and supplements. It enables the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus from food passing through the gut, which helps to grow 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 off 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 vitamin D levels may contribute to low mood, according to a review in the Depression and Anxiety(opens in new tab) journal. However, we need more research to establish the exact link.
The evidence suggests that it does. According to the Cleveland Clinic(opens in new tab), some of the top symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in adults are fatigue, muscle weakness and low mood, all of which can make us feel down and exhausted.
A double-blind trial in the Medicine(opens in new tab) journal compared the results of two groups who experienced fatigue and vitamin D deficiency. One group was given vitamin D supplements, while the other was given a placebo. Researchers found that the group given vitamin D experienced significant improvements in energy levels in just four weeks.
Dietitian Rahaf Al Bochi, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics(opens in new tab), also tells Live Science vitamin D deficiency is associated with low energy levels. “Vitamin D has been shown in research to aid the function of the mitochondria within the body’s cells, which is responsible for creating energy,” she says.
This research was published in Endocrine Abstracts(opens in new tab) and found that vitamin D supplementation in deficient adults improved muscle function by turbo-charging the mitochondria — the batteries our cells need to function. Every patient in the study reported an improvement in energy levels after taking a fixed dose of vitamin D for 10 to 12 weeks.
“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 new tab), and it doesn’t take much exposure for your body to start producing it.
However, the Skin Foundation(opens in new tab) warns that even short, limited exposure is more than enough time to cause DNA damage that causes genetic mutations, increasing the risk of skin cancer throughout your lifetime.
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 sunlight. And only some people want to expose their arms, legs and face in public.
Although it’s challenging to get all the vitamin D you need from food alone, certain foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. These include: fortified foods and drinks such as milk or breakfast cereals, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and fish liver oils, egg yolks, cheese and some mushrooms.
“A vitamin D supplement may be needed, especially during the winter months when sunlight exposure is limited,” adds Al Bochi.