Are you feeling unproductive at work lately? Does it take you longer to meet deadlines? Or does your job make you more anxious than ever? If you can relate to any of those, it may be time to check your vitamin D levels.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D, also called calciferol, is a nutrient we can get from food or produce in our bodies. It plays many roles, such as promoting the absorption of calcium and phosphate, two essential minerals for bone health. It also reduces inflammation in the body and strengthens our immune system.
The scientific community established the benefits of vitamin D on our physical health a long time ago. More recently, studies have focused on its effects on our mental health. One important finding is that vitamin D plays a role in preventing and even treating symptoms of depressive and anxious disorders. And, of interest to all young professionals, vitamin D can even impact work productivity.
What is the relationship between vitamin D and work productivity?
A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that we could predict employees’ productivity by their vitamin D levels. The researchers measured the blood vitamin D levels of more than 10,000 healthcare workers and compared them to productivity at work. They reported that those with low blood levels of vitamin D, i.e. less than 20 ng/mL, were significantly less productive than their coworkers with vitamin D levels above 40 ng/mL. They experienced low energy levels, were less focused, and could not perform as many tasks.
The findings of this study are not unique: many others have investigated the relationship between vitamin D and work productivity and came to the same conclusion. One of the explanations is the effect vitamin D has on depression and anxiety. Those two conditions decrease productivity at work because they make us feel lethargic, unmotivated, and over-tired. Vitamin D helps resolve anxious and depressive symptoms, thereby improving productivity.
The effects of vitamin D on work productivity are even more impressive in the fall and winter. Why? Sun exposure triggers the production of vitamin D in the skin. Since the days are significantly shorter during the colder months, we struggle to make enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone. Therefore, if you do not make a conscious effort to get enough vitamin D during the winter, you may start to feel it at work!
Where to get more vitamin D?
You can find vitamin D in a few food items, such as mushrooms, especially shitake, salmon, and eggs. Some people like to take a cod liver oil supplement to get their daily dose of vitamin D. If the cod liver is not for you (we do not blame you!), many multivitamins also have vitamin D in their formula. Simply make sure it contains at least 600 IU.
Sun exposure is another way to get vitamin D. If you live in a warm country or during the summer months, expose your arms, face, and chest to the sun every day for 15 minutes without sunscreen. Individuals with darker skin tones may need to stay in the sun a little longer to produce enough vitamin D. However, due to the risks related to sun exposure without adequate protection, it may be best to rely on foods and supplements to get your daily dose of vitamin D.