Growing up, our bodies require vitamin D in order to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Humans mostly get this nutrient from sunlight — we produce the vitamin when our skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays — while supplements also offer the health benefits required throughout life.

A new study published in Frontiers has revealed that vitamin D may also improve, or even prevent, metabolic syndrome. Recent research has also linked the supplement to disease prevention, longer lifespan, strong bones, and more.

Read: Vitamin D Deficiency’s Impact On Mental And Physical Health, From Depression To Gut Problems

Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of factors that increases your risk for heart disease and other health problems, like diabetes and stroke, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The main cause is thought to be a diet high in fat or carbohydrates.

Researchers behind the new study found that vitamin D deficiency is necessary for this syndrome to progress in mice, Medical XPress reported.

After studying mice, it’s clear that vitamin D supplementation improves metabolic syndrome in these creatures. Moving forward, researchers will see if the effect is the same in humans.

"A sufficient dietary vitamin D supplement can partially but significantly antagonize metabolic syndrome caused by high fat diet in mice," said researcher Stephen Pandol, according to Medical XPress . "These are amounts equivalent to the dietary recommendations for humans.”

Additionally, they discovered that an insufficient supply of vitamin D aggravates the imbalance in gut flora. An overabundance of bad gut bacteria can lead to constipation or chronic diarrhea, intestinal gas and chronic bad breath.

Read: Vitamin D Deficiency In Pregnancy: Customized Supplements May Be Beneficial

Another recent study also linked vitamin D to disease prevention and a longer lifespan in worms, Medical Daily reported.

Source: Su D, Nie Y, Zhu A, Chen Z, Wu P, Zhang L. Vitamin D Signaling through Induction of Paneth Cell Defensins Maintains Gut Microbiota and Improves Metabolic Disorders and Hepatic Steatosis in Animal Models. Frontiers. 2016.

See Also:

Why You Need Vitamin D, And 3 Ways To Get Strong Bones

Stay Young: Vitamin D Could Slow Aging, Prevent Disease