Vitamin D is one of the important fat-soluble vitamins that can be synthesized in the body on exposure to sunshine. Called the “sunshine vitamin” vitamin D plays a major role in preserving overall health in the body.
Some of the important functions of vitamin D are:
Calcium absorption: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from food in the intestine. Without vitamin D, calcium remains unabsorbed leading to a deficiency in the long term. The body leaches calcium from the bones to meet this deficiency. Over time, bones become weak and brittle leading to increased risk of fractures and immobility.
Antioxidant: Vitamin D is an important antioxidant and studies have shown its link to chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Immune boosting: Vitamin D is known to boost natural immunity and can minimize incidences of flu and seasonal allergies according to studies.
Deficiency of Vitamin D
According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, more than 40% of the population in Europe and the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. In some regions, the deficiency has assumed epidemic proportions. More than 60% of infants are vitamin D deficient in Mongolia and certain parts of China. A high incidence of vitamin D deficiency is also seen in the Middle East countries where the purdah system is practiced. Less than optimal levels of vitamin D in the blood have been found in parts of South America, North America, Finland and some other Asian countries.
Is sunshine adequate for getting the required vitamin D?
The total amount of vitamin D that can be produced in the skin depends on many factors such as duration of sun exposure, seasons including winter where sunlight is less and the time of the day. Usage of sunscreen, masks and robes also reduce the amount of vitamin D that can be produced. Pollution, UV rays and dark colour of the skin are some other factors that can result in less than optimal vitamin D being produced.
As increasing incidences of vitamin D deficiency is being seen even in countries with good sunlight availability, supplements are preferred over sunshine exposure.
How much supplementation is needed?
The Endocrine Society of Australia and Osteoporosis Australia recommends between 800 to 1000 I.U. of vitamin D as supplements for adults. Pregnant women may need up to 2000 I.U per day. As very less foods contain vitamin D in them, supplements can be the best way to get the required daily dose of the vitamin.
Usually taken with calcium to enhance the absorption of the bone mineral, the blood levels of vitamin D need to be carefully monitored. Excessive vitamin D can be toxic and fatal if not addressed in time.
Disclaimer: The vitamin health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends to consult health care professionals for any questions concerning your health.
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