Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is the only vitamin that can be produced by the body and our skin by mild sun exposure.
Vitamin D intake in necessary for a lot of functions in the human body, one major role of vitamin D is that it is necessary for the regulation and absorption of calcium and phosphorous. Calcium and phosphorous are an integral part of bone and teeth, furthermore, Vitamin D also provides protection against cancer, type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is referred to as pro hormone in medical terminology rather than a Vitamin. In general, vitamins are nutrients that our body can’t make, which is why we need them by our diet.
Whereas Vitamin D, can be synthesized by our body when it’s exposed to sun light. Exposing your skin to direct sunlight for 5-10 minutes every 2-3 times per week can produce sufficient vitamin D.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Bone and teeth
Vitamin D is necessary for the absorptionof calcium and phosphorous, the building blocks of bones and teeth which would otherwise be secreted by our kidneys. Therefore, getting a substantial amount of Vitamin D is important for normal growth.
In children, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a severe condition referred to as rickets, a disease characterized by bow-legged appearance due to softening of bones.
In adults however, a deficiency of Vitamin D is referred to as Osteomalacia. Osteomalacia is a disease characterized by weak bone density and muscular weakness,
Did you know that Vitamin D supports the immune system? It keeps the brain and nervous system healthy. A study published in 2010 by the American Journal Clinical Nutrition claims that Vitamin D has the ability to fight diseases such as Flu.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in the regulation of Insulin. Furthermore, several studies suggest that a deficiency in Vitamin D can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes and a deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to insufficient Insulin secretions which may spike glucose levels.
Prevention of Cancer
Research suggests that vitamin D regresses the expression of genes that are involved in the development of cancer. Vitamin D can affect as many as 200 genes in your body and is extremely important to regulate cell growth.
Moreover, some studies suggest that calcitrol (The active form of Vitamin D) can reduce metastasis (Growth) of cancer and can cause development of new blood vessels, increase cancerous cell death and reduce cell proliferation.
Plus it is also known that Vitamin D reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma severity and swine flu. Although it is still not proven that Vitamin D has these benefits but it’s a well-known fact that this vitamin boosts the immune system which may reduce the risks of the above mentioned diseases.
According to a study published in the journal of the American Medical association, Vitamin D reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis.
Another study done in 2008 found out that Vitamin D decreases the chance of developing heart diseases.
Vitamin D reduces depression
Research has shown that Vitamin D also plays a major role in the regulating mood and getting rid ofdepression. One study shows that people who took Vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their depression symptoms.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is measured in two ways:
- Micrograms (mcg)
- International Units (IU)
One microgram of Vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D
The recommended intakes of vitamin D set by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM) are as follows
- Infants 0-12 months: 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children 1-18 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults to age 70: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults over 70: 800 IU (20 mcg)
- Pregnant or lactating women: 600 IU (15 mcg)
Vitamin D deficiency
Our bodies are capable of creating Vitamin D; however, there are many reasons as to why deficiency may occur. Darker skin color and the use of sun screen can reduce the body’s ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun needed to produce vitamin in D.
A sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 hinders the body’s ability by 95% to synthesize vitamin D. In order for the body to synthesize vitamin D, the skin has to be exposed to sunlight and it shouldn’t be covered by clothing.
People who live in high altitude areas or areas of high pollution, work at night and stay at home during the day, or they don’t get out are bound to this vitamin’s deficiency, therefore, consuming extra Vitamin D from food sources are absolutely necessary. Newborns who are only breast-fed, have dark skin or have less exposure to the sun are required to take vitamin D supplements. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed infants receive 400 IU (10mcg) of Vitamin D per day; however, consulting with your pediatrician is the way to go about it.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include
- Painful bones and back
- Getting sick or infected especially with flu
- Depressed mood
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
- Impaired wound healing
Continued Vitamin D deficiency may lead to:
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease
Vitamin D food sources
Sunlight is the most efficient source of Vitamin D. Being said that, there’s a misconception that sunlight provides Vitamin D, it doesn’t. Sunlight only provides the energy toconvert Vitamin D to its active form.
Here is a list of foods with abundant Vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU
- Herring, 4 ounces: 1,056 IU
- Swordfish, 4 ounces: 941 IU
- Raw maitake mushrooms, 1 cup: 596 IU
- Sardines, 4 ounces: 336 IU
- Skim milk, 1 cup: 120 IU
- Tuna, 3 ounces: 68 IU
- Egg, poultry: 44 IU
Health risks of consuming Vitamin D
The maximum limit of consuming Vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day.
Excessive intake of Vitamin D (hypervitaminosis D) can result in calcification of bones and solidify arteries, veins, kidney, lungs, and heart. The common symptoms of hypervitaminosis include the following
- Dry mouth
- Metallic taste in the mouth
If you want to avoid Vitamin D poisoning, try shifting to a diet plan that is rich in Vitamin D. If you want to go for supplements it’s better to always better to consult your physician first or if you don’t want to do that, buy supplements that are well known because FDA doesn’t monitor supplements or it’s purity as much as they should.
BDS, MPhil DM