What Are the Benefits of Vitamin D?
Vitamins are essential nutrients because of the vital role they play in ensuring that the body system is safe from any health complications or diseases. Vitamin D, also called calciferol, is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that is responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and various other compounds that the body requires. Vitamin D is produced by the human body through its exposure to sunlight. One can also increase their vitamin D intake by consuming certain foods or supplements.
Types of Vitamin D
Vitamin D has two types: D2 and D3. Vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, comes from fortified foods and other counter supplements, while vitamin D3 also known as cholecalciferol, comes from fortified foods and animal foods such as eggs, fatty fish, cod liver oil, and liver. Vitamin D is essential as it maintains healthy bones and teeth, reduces inflammation, obesity, psychological disorders, among other conditions. It may also protect against a range of diseases and conditions such as type 1 diabetes and cancer.
Dosage for Vitamin D
Here`s the recommended daily intake of vitamin D
- Infants between 0–12 months: 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children 1–18 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults up to 70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults of 70 years and above: 800 IU (20 mcg)
- Pregnant or nursing women: 600 IU (15 mcg)
A good amount of sun exposure on bare skin for 5–10 minutes, 2–3 times per week, is enough to produce adequate vitamin D levels, however, vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, which indicates that stores can run low, especially when there is no sunlight.
Sources of vitamin D
Adequate sunlight is the best way to help the body generate enough vitamin D, however, there are some food sources you can trust:
- fatty fish, such as sardine, tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- fortified milk
- cod liver oil
- egg yolks
- beef liver
- fortified cereals and juices
Benefits of Vitamin D
One thing vitamin D is famous for is its bone-building, alongside its strengthening effects. It also plays a significant role in regulating calcium and maintaining phosphorus levels in the blood. These factors are important for maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D is also essential for preventing bones from getting brittle. What`s more? It helps the intestines to stimulate and take in calcium which the kidneys would then excrete.
Insufficient vitamin D levels in children can cause rickets, a condition in which the legs of the child become bowed due to the softening of the bones. Also, in adults, vitamin D deficiency manifests as osteomalacia, also known as softening of the bones. Osteomalacia results in poor bone density and muscular weakness. Research also shows that vitamin D can strengthen one’s muscles and reduce bone fractures.
Improves Oral Health
Vitamin D plays a vital role in oral health, as it helps lower the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Reduces Risk of Cancer Death
Studies have analyzed the potential connection between vitamin D and breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer. Some findings suggest that
vitamin D can help reduce the risk of cancer.
Great for Heart Health
Recent studies have shown that people with high blood pressure and obesity
tend to have lower vitamin D levels. Did you know that vitamin D can lower your blood pressure? Now you know! Consume some of this vitamin already for your heart`s sake.
Keeps Infants Healthy
Inadequate vitamin D levels can cause high blood pressure in children. A study found a likely connection between low vitamin D levels and stiffness in the arterial walls of children. Children who consume adequate levels of vitamin D are also less likely to suffer from peanut allergies. What`s more? Vitamin D also boosts the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids, making it a supportive treatment for people dealing with steroid-resistant asthma.
Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin D may be at higher risk of developing preeclampsia and giving birth preterm. Medical professionals usually associate poor vitamin D status with gestational diabetes and bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. A 2013 study associates high vitamin D levels during pregnancy with an increased risk of food allergy in children during their first two years.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Even though the body can create vitamin D, deficiency can occur due to many reasons. Let`s look at some causes of vitamin D deficiency.
A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 can reduce the body’s ability
to produce the required amount of vitamin by 95% or more. Also, covering the
skin with clothing can hinder the production of vitamin D.
Individuals who live in northern areas or areas of high pollution, work night shifts, or are homebound should aim at consuming vitamin D from food sources as much as possible, as they are more likely to suffer vitamin D deficiency.
Women who breastfeed need a vitamin D supplement, especially if they have dark
skin or have minimal sun exposure. It is best to obtain vitamins or minerals
through natural sources even though they are obtainable from supplements
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
- regular sickness or infection
- bone and back pain
- impaired wound healing
- hair loss
- muscle pain
If Vitamin D deficiency continues for long periods, it may result in serious complications such as:
- autoimmune problems
- cardiovascular conditions
- neurological diseases
- complications during pregnancy
- certain cancers such as breast, prostate, and colon
Side Effects of Excessive Vitamin D Intake
The limit recommended by healthcare professionals for vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day for an adult. Unnecessary consumption of vitamin D can lead to over-calcification of bones and the toughening of the blood vessels, kidney, lung, as well as heart tissues. Two common symptoms of excessive vitamin D intake are headache and nausea. Excessive intake of vitamin D can also lead to the following:
- loss of appetite
- a metallic taste
- excessive urination
- mood changes
Sunlight and vitamin D
Sunlight has a number of health benefits. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, or more specifically, the sun and ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation, vitamin D is generated.
The amount of vitamin D produced by your skin is determined by a variety of factors, some of which are:
This aspect is somewhat dependent on where you live. Due to the ozone layer and
the zenith of the sun, UV-B light does not reach the earth for six months of the year.
Also, the sun rays are at their strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The amount of ultraviolet (UV) light in cities near the equator is usually higher. The UV-B light in the sun helps your skin to produce vitamin D.
Melanin is a pigment found in the eyes, hair, and skin. It is brown-black in color and causes the skin to tan.
Now that you Know…
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that can help fortify bones and keep them strong. Excessive vitamin D intake usually happens when people take too many supplements. Vitamin D is best gotten from natural sources. If you choose to take supplements, you are advised to ask your doctor before deciding on a brand. It is best to consume a diet with a range of nutrients than to focus on one nutrient as the key to good health. Also, if you suspect that you suffer from vitamin D deficiency, consult your doctor to know the next steps to take.