Imagine a supplement that can block the worst effects of stress on your body and lower your risk of heart disease in the process–a disease, incidentally, that kills one in four women. Of course you’d want to take it.
Chances are, you might be already. The supplement is vitamin D. The vitamin protects bones from becoming too brittle; other studies have linked it to stronger muscles and a lower risk of cancer. Now a new study has found evidence that one pill a day can help the body block the effects of cortisol, a stress hormone. Too much cortisol in the blood can restrict your arteries, narrow your blood vessels, and increase blood pressure. All of those things can damage your heart.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland gave people vitamin D or a placebo and examined them two weeks later. They found that those taking the supplement had lower blood pressure. They also had more stamina during workouts–they could bicycle longer without becoming as tired. And since cortisol promotes the storage of belly fat, lowering this stress hormone in your body will lead to a slimmer you.
Our bodies manufacture vitamin D from sunlight, but from November through March, it is impossible for those of us in the northern hemisphere to get enough vitamin D naturally. That’s why doctors frequently recommend people take a supplement. So ask your doctor whether you should take a supplement–and how high a dose you need.