What is vitamin D?
Also Known as “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is necessary for the absorption of calcium and vital for bone health. Unlike other vitamins, our body is capable of producing vitamin D through the exposure to ultraviolet-b radiation from sunlight. You can also obtain it through certain diet and supplements to ensure adequate amount for optimum health.
Two forms of vitamin D are commonly ingested form the diet and supplements: vitamin D2 (“ergocalciferol,” or pre-vitamin D) and vitamin D3 (“cholecalciferol”). Vitamin D3 is thought to be more absorbable and beneficial, which is synthesized in the skin from cholesterol through a chemical reaction that is dependent on sunlight exposure.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is very common through worldwide, most of us don’t get enough vitamin D daily. This is because of our modern, high technology and primarily indoor lifestyle. For example, people prefer to exercise inside gyms, kids like to play video games and surfing the internet, and sunscreens are highly used when we do spend time in the sun.
As a result, calcium absorption cannot be increased enough to satisfy the body’s calcium needs, which lead to severe conditions:
A childhood disease results in the failure of bone to mineralize, characterized by soft, weak and deformed long bones that bend under their weight. It’s been reported throughout the world, especially in Africa, Asia and Middle East.
Muscle pain and weakness
Prominent symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can be bone pain and muscle weakness. Loss of muscle strength greatly contributes to the development of bone fractures and osteoporosis, especially in older people.
Vitamin D health benefits:
1. Bone and teeth Strength
Vitamin D is essential for the efficient absorption and utilization of calcium, also the regulation of phosphorus in the body, which are very important for bone growth and maintenance of the bone density.
In the process of aging and if you are not getting enough vitamin D, your body’s ability to absorb calcium will slow down. However your body will still mobilize calcium from bone when there is insufficient calcium in order to maintain normal serum calcium level. This cycle in a long term can make your bones at risk for fractures and lead to degenerative diseases such as osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
2. Immune system support
Vitamin D has variety of effects on immune system function; regulate the immune response, enhance innate immunity and prevent the development of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
In addition, vitamin D strengthens the immune defenses for infectious diseases including cold, flu and HIV. It also tempers the damaging inflammatory responses, which prevent the root of many chronic diseases and autoimmune conditions.
3. Decrease the risk of diabetes
Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) can lead to severe complications in a long term, such as pancreas failure, liver damage, kidney failure and heart disease. Few studies suggest that a deficiency vitamin D may have a negative effect on insulin secretion of the pancreas. Sufficient amount of vitamin D can maintain insulin sensitivity and decrease inflammation, which support the prevention and management of both types of diabetes.
4. Decrease the risk of cancer
Vitamin D may prevent the mutations of the cell by controlling the proliferation of cells through differentiation, which could reduce the risk of development of cancer, especially breast, colon and prostate cancers.
5. Protection from heart disease
The heart is a large muscle and it has receptors for vitamin D, a deficiency may link to heart disease, stroke, sudden cardiac death and heart failure, since it’s related to blood pressure regulation and inflammation.
This benefit is still unclear according to latest studies, but people with low vitamin D levels have more chance to suffer from overall cardiovascular disease.
The recommended intake amount is 1,000 IU daily. The best source to get sufficient vitamin D is through sunlight exposure; Outdoor activities are highly recommended for modern lifestyle, especially for elders. It has been estimated that up to 15 minutes sun exposure on the hands, arms and face around noon, during spring and summer time may provide a light-skinned individual with right amount of vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplementation
You can also obtain vitamin D through food sources and high quality supplements if sunlight exposure is not a suitable option due to weather and lifestyle reasons.
Food sources high in vitamin D: salmon, mackerel, sardine, tuna, eggs, cod liver oil, mushrooms