I’m beginning to wonder if there’s anything vitamin D CAN’T do. Research has been pouring in about its abilities to tackle all sorts of serious health threats, from heart attacks to Parkinson’s to cancer. But the latest study — and largest of its kind to date — shows that this essential nutrient might just be a natural cure-all, right down to the common cold.

I should clarify, though. The key to vitamin D’s cold-fighting powers is to get plenty of it BEFORE cold and flu season. Because building up your reserves may very well mean the difference between staying healthy all winter long and sniffling your way into spring.

The researchers, from Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, determined vitamin D’s cold-preventing abilities by examining data collected from nearly 19,000 people over the course of six years. All of the subjects underwent physical exams, answered nutritional and health surveys, and had their levels of vitamin D measured.

The researchers found that the participants with low levels of vitamin D (less than 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood), were almost 40 percent more likely to catch a cold or other respiratory infection as the people with higher levels of the nutrient (30 nanograms/milliliter or more).

Of course, as you know, vitamin D isn’t the only natural option for preventing colds and the flu. But this studyis one more reason to make sure you’re getting plenty of this wonder-vitamin.

Vitamin D has also been helpful with joint and muscle pain and stiffness. Rheumatologists have reported vitamin D deficiency can cause substantial joint pain, limited motion and fatigue.

4,000 IU (“International Units”) are recommended daily for adults and teenagers, 1,000 IU for infants and small children, and 2,000 IU for everyone in between.