By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Over the years, various studies have been conducted to determine whether or not the sea may actually improve our mental health and wellbeing, and the outcomes have always been positive. People who live closer to the sea report better mental health than those who live further away, demonstrating the importance of the coast as a relaxing and restorative environment in promoting physical and mental wellness.
Many people have been shown to have greater vitamin D levels as well, due to being outside more and with a larger likelihood of the skin being exposed to sunlight. Living near the sea enhances your likelihood of getting more regular exercise too.
Why is vitamin D important to health?
Vitamin D is a fat -soluble vitamin and has an essential role in the absorption and use of calcium and phosphorus and therefore in the formation and health of bones, teeth, and cartilage. It functions like a hormone and every cell in the body has a receptor for it. Vitamin D is frequently referred to as the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ as sunlight is necessary for the synthesis of this Vitamin (which is produced underneath the skin following exposure to sunlight).
Why is it needed by the body?
- Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and other minerals.
- It helps the body to assimilate vitamin A
- Needed for the health of teeth and bones
- Necessary for the metabolism of phosphorus and calcium
- Required for kidney function
- For the maintenance of normal muscle function
- It contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- It plays a role in the process of cell division
And for fertility
It is thought to help control the genes involved in making oestrogen aswell as several genes involved in the implantation of the embryo. During pregnancy, if a woman is deficient in vitamin D it has been linked to some complications such as diabetes and hypertension. Although the data for vitamin D and fertility is not conclusive, several studies have found that vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/mL or higher are associated with higher pregnancy rates. In a recent study sought to investigate whether vitamin D blood levels are associated with live birth rates in women undergoing fertility treatments. It found that women with a level greater than 30 ng/mL had higher live birth rates than women with lower vitamin D levels.
In men, vitamin D status has been associated with semen quality and sperm count, motility, and morphology. There is evidence to suggest that if a man is not deficient in vitamin D then there is a positive effect to be seen on semen quality, testosterone concentrations, and fertility outcomes. Further studies are required in this area.
The sea also provides many key foods that are crucial when it comes to health and fertility including seaweed and seafood, such as oily fish.
Seaweed and Sea kelp are a great source of iodine. In general, foods from the sea (sea kelp and seaweed) contain the most iodine, followed by animal foods, then plant foods. Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones which are required for normal body metabolism and growth.
Why is iodine important for fertility?
There is growing concern from recent studies that many women in the UK are iodine deficient and this could put the unborn child at serious risk of learning difficulties as this mineral is very important during the development of the brain. Iodine is particularly important during pre-conception and the first 16 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the healthy development of the baby’s brain, skeleton and metabolism. Iodine is an important mineral in women, because it is most highly concentrated in the thyroid, breasts and ovaries. Iodine deficiency may lead to menstrual irregularities, infertility, early menopause, and ovarian diseases. It is also important for men, especially for the prostate gland. Thyroid gland problems may affect fertility in women in a number of ways including a failure to ovulate and irregular menstrual cycles. Hypothyroidism may also cause a hormone called Prolactin to increase. Prolactin is involved in the production of breast milk and this can also prevent ovulation. Those women with Hypothyroidism are sometimes also diagnosed as having Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which can also lead to fertility problems.
Seafood and fish provide us with many important nutrients for health and fertility including protein, omega 3 fatty acids, selenium and zinc (to name a few).
Just a few reasons to grab a dose of Vitamin Sea when you are able.
Chu, J., Gallos, I., Tobias, A. et al. Vitamin D and assisted reproductive treatment outcome: a prospective cohort study. Reprod Health 16, 106 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-019-0769-7