Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we get from different food sources, ultraviolet rays from sunlight and it is also available as a dietary supplement. Our liver and kidneys convert this vitamin into its active form called calcitriol which is a steroid hormone that plays a significant role in promoting healthy growth and circulates as a hormone in the blood.
The most important role of this vitamin is that it helps absorb calcium and maintain our body's normal phosphorus levels which is very critical for our bodily functions and systems that include normal cell growth, development of bones and teeth and the proper functioning of our immune, nervous and cardiovascular systems. It can actually give us protection against osteomalacia, osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Read and discover everything you need to know about the "sunshine vitamin" and why everybody needs their daily dose of vitamin D to boost immunity and overall health.
Origin and History
The discovery of rickets, a condition that involves softening and weakening of bones in children has led to the discovery of vitamin D. In 1890, British medical missionary Theobald Palm noted that sunlight was important in the prevention of nutritional rickets.
In 1921, American biochemists Elmer McCollum and Marguerite Davis confirmed Palm's proposal about the link between sunlight and rickets. They have also demonstrated that giving laboratory rats, cod liver oil and exposing them to UV radiation have increased the rats' bone growth.
McCollum and Davis were also responsible for the discovery of vitamins A, B and D as well as the effects of trace elements in the diet. McCollum has come to the correct conclusion that the factor that cures rickets is vitamin D. While in 1924, Biochemistry Professor Harry Steenbock from the University of Wisconsin patented a method of irradiating foods to enrich them with the sunshine vitamin.
The primary source of vitamin D has traditionally been sunlight, the reason why it is also called the sunshine vitamin.
Fair-skinned people can have adequate vitamin D through the skin with 20 to 30 minutes of daily sun exposure.
People with darker skin pigmentation require three hours of sun exposure every day for an adequate supply.
Sunblock or sunscreen can block your vitamin D intake since it comes from UV rays which can lead to the deficiency of the vitamin.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Many people do not get sufficient amount of vitamin D levels due to the lack of sun exposure and inadequate diet. Vitamin D is essential for the efficient utilization of other nutrients that our body needs such as calcium and phosphorus which are vital in the production and development of strong bones and healthy nervous and immune system.
Signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may not be obvious. So, if you notice any of the signs listed below, we suggest that you should see your healthcare professional for a blood test. Here are the following signs and symptoms if you are deficient or in need of the vitamin:
· Feeling fatigued and tired most of the time · Mood swings and irritability · Bone, joint and muscle pain · Obese or overweight · Sleeplessness · Depressed · Hair Loss
1. Brain Health. Promotes brain health and reduces the risk of cognitive impairment, most especially when it comes to elderly people who are prone to dementia such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. It also effectively helps with your learning, memory and concentration.
2. Muscle Function. Supports proper muscle function and promotes muscle strength. Low levels of the vitamin may lead to fatty muscles which can lead to obesity and impair physical functioning. It also plays an integral role in your neuromuscular functioning where your nervous and muscular systems are involved.
3. Pain Reliever.Clinical analysis shows that vitamin can help with pain management and low level of the vitamin is linked to increased joint and muscle pain. Experts say that it can affect pain sensitivity in two ways, wherein it can influence sleep and the other one is through its anti-inflammatory effects.
4. Improves Mood. There are studies that prove people who have higher levels of vitamin D have a 43% reduced risk of having depression and 67% lower risk of having panic disorder. It helps facilitate hormonal balance and improve your mood, preventing mood swings and irritability.
5. Boosts Immune System.It is required for optimal immune function. Research also proves that individuals who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to have high levels of inflammatory biomarkers which are linked to several chronic conditions like heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
6. Heart Health. Lowers blood pressure, glucose levels that help promote heart health which reduces the risk of heart disease, cardiac arrest and stroke. Studies suggest that people who have lower levels of the vitamin have a 40% higher risk of having cardiovascular disease.
7. Dental and Bone Health. Keeps your bones and teeth strong for it is essential in the calcium absorption that maintains bone mineral density. Also, prevents early loss of teeth, reduces the risk of bone fractures among older people and helps in the prevention of arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases.
8. Kidney Health. There is a new study that proves the sunshine vitamin can extend the lives of most kidney failure patients where 76% of the patients who have received vitamin D injections have an extended lifespan. It may also help treat kidney disease with low blood calcium and hyperparathyroidism due to kidney disease.
9. Healthy Pregnancy. Vitamin D requirements during pregnancy increases due to calcium deposition and bone mineralization in the developing baby. There are also studies that show it reduces the risk of autism and premature death on babies where the low supply of the vitamin can disrupt a baby's brain development.
10. Skin Health. When it comes to skin health, sunshine vitamin plays a major role in reducing the risk of skin cancer and other skin diseases. It can improve and treat eczema and psoriasis symptoms. It also prevents your skin from premature ageing and helps in skin cell repair, but too much sun exposure may lead to skin damage.
Here are the following dietary sources for your daily intake of vitamin D:
Fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna and sardines)
Fortified milk, margarine and cereals
Cod liver oil
Beef and liver
Vitamin D Supplements
Supplementation of vitamin D is very necessary for those people who are not getting enough sunlight. It is recommended to individuals who are experiencing fall and winter months and for those who do not receive daily exposure to direct sunlight.
There are two main forms of vitamin D. The first one is vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and the other one is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), both are actually converted into calcitriol, the active form of the vitamin, which is normally made in the liver and kidney. Here are their differences and how you can benefit from each:
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
It is produced by fungi and yeasts and is rare in the diet, fortunately, it is usually added to nutritional supplements and fortified foods.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
Is the most common form of vitamin D. It actually originates in the skin when you are exposed to sunlight and can be found in animal products and fish oils.
Dosage and Duration
Keep in mind that for your safety, you should always read the label before using any kinds of products before use. Current research suggests that dietary requirement of vitamin D may be as high as 6000 IU/day (Hollis 2007). The recommended levels of the vitamin varies depending on your age and health needs.
For Paediatric Use
Infants (0 to 12 months old): 5 mcg or 200 IU
Children 1 to 13 years old: 5 mcg or 200 IU
Adolescents 14 to 18 years old: 5 mcg or 200 IU
19 to 50 years old: 5 mcg or 200 IU
51 to 70 years old: 10 mcg or 400 IU
70 years and older: 15 mcg or 600 IU
Pregnant and lactating women: 5 mcg or 200 IU
Precautions and Side Effects
Children and Pregnant Women. Keep out of reach of children. If not properly administered, it can lead to adverse side effects. Make sure to consult first your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or medications, to know the right dosage for you and prevent an overdose.
Antacids. Antacids can alter the levels and availability of vitamin D. Aluminum-containing antacids may increase the risk of fractures from osteomalacia resistant to the administration of vitamin D, this is of particular concern for people who are at risk of aluminum toxicity.
Antiseizure and Antituberculosis Medications. Avoid taking vitamin D supplements together with anticonvulsants or antiseizure drugs such as Acetazolamide, Phenobarbital and Dilantin, as well as antituberculosis drugs like Rifampicin and Isoniazid can affect vitamin D metabolism and your calcium levels.
Overdose. Please be advised that overdosage of vitamin D can also lead to serious side effects and can be toxic which is also called hypervitaminosis D which occurs when you have excessive amounts of vitamin D in the body. It can lead to a buildup of calcium in your blood called hypercalcemia that causes nausea, weakness, bone pain and kidney problems.