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05 November 2015 09:30
Vitamin D is chiefly obtained from sunshine
A daily vitamin D supplement could help cut stress and blood pressure while improving fitness, the results of a new pilot study suggest.
Researchers say their findings help illustrate the importance of addressing vitamin D deficiency.
It is estimated that in England about 10 million people are deficient in what is sometimes referred to as the 'sunshine vitamin'.
Vitamin D, which is mainly obtained from sunlight, promotes bone growth and helps the body absorb calcium. It is also needed for other vital bodily functions.
Researchers at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University gave a small group of volunteers a daily 50 microgram supplement of the vitamin for a fortnight while others took a placebo.
At the start of the study those taking the vitamin D were only able to cycle 5km in 20 minutes but after two weeks they could cover 6.5km.
They also showed lower signs of exertion than the volunteers who got the dummy pills despite cycling 30% further.
Those on the supplement also had lower blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the other volunteers.
High blood pressure is linked with various medical problems, including strokes and heart attacks. But holidaymakers who have them can cover themselves with a specialist medical travel insurance policy.
Previous studies have suggested that the vitamin can block the work of an enzyme involved in the production of cortisol.
It is thought high levels of the hormone can raise blood pressure by narrowing the blood vessels and causing water retention in the kidneys.
Dr Emad Al-Dujaili, the study's lead author, says vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and an increased risk for certain cancers.
He adds that the research helps back up evidence pointing to the importance of tackling vitamin D deficiency.
The research team now plan to follow up the study with a bigger clinical trial involving healthy people as well as cyclists and athletes.
The study's findings were presented to the Society for Endocrinology's annual meeting in Edinburgh.
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