Vitamin D is both a nutrient we consume and a hormone our bodies produce. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to aid the body’s absorption and retention of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are necessary for bone formation.
Laboratory studies reveal that vitamin D can help regulate infections and reduce inflammation. Many of the body’s organs and tissues have vitamin D receptors, implying vital roles beyond bone health, and scientists are actively studying additional possible activities.
Few foods contain vitamin D naturally, while some are fortified with it. Because it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food, most people prefer to take a supplement.
Vitamin D synthesis in the skin is the primary natural source of vitamin D. Still, many people have insufficient levels because they live in areas where sunlight is limited in winter, or because they have little sun exposure due to being inside much of the time.
Furthermore, those with darker skin tend to have lower blood levels of vitamin D because the pigment (melanin) acts as a shade, limiting vitamin D production and also reducing the damaging effects of sunlight on the skin, including skin cancer.
Role of Vitamin D in the body
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is an important substance that aids in the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels in the body.
According to experts, it aids in the improvement of bone, tooth, and muscle health, as well as the prevention of bone abnormalities such as Rickets in children and bone discomfort caused by a condition known as Osteomalacia (softening of the bones) in adults.
The daily limit of Vitamin D
Children as young as one year old, adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and those at risk of vitamin D insufficiency, require 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), babies under the age of one year require 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day.
Note this sign
According to a Pharmacy, having adequate vitamin D levels in the body is beneficial to keeping a healthy immune system. This means that it can help fight common diseases like the flu or the common cold.
However, if you’re frequently becoming sick and falling ill, it could be a sign that you’re not receiving enough vitamin D.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency
Aside from getting sick more often, some of the most common symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency are:
- Inadequate sleep
- Bone ache or pain
- Feelings of melancholy or depression
- Hair loss
- Muscle aches or pain
- Loss of appetite
What could be the dangers of Vitamin D deficiency in the body?
Low vitamin D levels in the body can cause bone density loss, which raises your risk of osteoporosis and fractures. A severe deficiency can result in Rickets in children, a disorder that affects bone development.
Vitamin D insufficiency has also been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, according to research.
How to get optimum levels of Vitamin D?
Most people obtain enough vitamin D via sunlight and a healthy, balanced diet. During the winter, however, from October to early March, individuals do not produce enough vitamin D from sunlight alone and must obtain it from their diet, putting them susceptible to vitamin D shortage.
However, some of the best vitamin D food sources are:
- Oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel)
- Red meat
- Egg yolk
- Fortified meals, such as various fat spreads and cereals
Is it good to take supplements?
Sunlight exposure and consuming vitamin D-rich foods are not the only ways to meet your daily vitamin needs.
Because it is difficult for people to obtain enough vitamin D from diet alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter, according to research.
There are two vitamin D supplements: vitamin D2 (‘ergocalciferol’ or pre-vitamin D) and vitamin D3 (‘cholecalciferol’). Both are naturally occurring forms created in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays, hence the term ‘sunshine vitamin,’.
However, D2 is formed in plants and fungi while D3 is produced in mammals, including humans.
Note: Over-supplementation, or taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time, must be avoided. According to the health agency, this can lead to an excess of calcium in the body (hypercalcaemia), weakening the bones and harming the kidneys and the heart.
Vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly across-the-board, but the symptoms are sometimes modest and ambiguous, making it difficult to distinguish between a shortage and another health condition.
If you suspect you have a deficit, consult a doctor about getting a blood test.
Vitamin D deficiency is commonly managed with supplements, although the proper dosage may require the assistance of a specialist. Increase your sun exposure and eat more vitamin D-rich foods like fatty fish and fortified dairy products.
Addressing a vitamin D deficiency is worthwhile and can have long-term health advantages.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Ans. When exposed to direct sunlight, the body produces vitamin D. However, from October to early March, we do not produce enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Ans. The ideal time of day to acquire an effective vitamin D from the sun while minimising your chance of developing cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is midday or noon.
Ans. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 1,000 IUs of vitamin D each day, which is similar to 10-15 minutes of sun exposure. Intervals of 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day may provide adequate vitamin D, not just for skin health but also for overall wellness.
Ans. The sun activates the precursors of Vitamin D, that is, the molecules that generate the vitamin present in your skin, so getting some morning sun is a good idea for your health.
Written by: Anjali Dharra