Have you ever heard of the sunshine vitamin? If you aren’t familiar with the term, you are certainly missing out. Also known as vitamin D, it can reflect different factors of your life, including your weight, diet, and overall health.
Better yet, this nutrient significantly differs from other vitamins. What makes it unique is its creation. When you expose your skin to the sun, the cholesterol begins the production of the vitamin. Here’s where its informal title comes from.
Still, sun exposure doesn’t provide the adequate amount of this vitamin that our bodies require. As such, we need to implement it in our diet through supplements.
At this point, you might be wondering what is vitamin D essentially, and how can I ingest the needed amount in my body?
An Introduction To Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that it can dissolve in fats and oils and remain in your body for prolonged periods.
As mentioned before, your body can produce vitamin D by itself when exposed to sunlight. To be more specific, it’s your skin’s cholesterol that responds to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun.
Vitamin D has to undergo two conversion steps to become active. It needs to convert to calcidiol, or 25(OH)D, in your liver, or the storage form of the vitamin. Then your kidneys convert the storage form to calcitriol, or 1,25(OH)2D, which is the active hormone form of Vitamin D. Calcitriol interacts with the vitamin D receptor known as VDR found in every cell of our bodies. When Vitamin D binds with this receptor, it turns the genes on or off. In turn, this leads to changes in your cells as a result.
If you live in a region of the world where sunshine is present all the time, you will get all of the vitamin D you need just by being in the sun a few times per week.
Still, that’s not the case in most parts of the world. For instance, areas that don’t have much sunlight exposure or the winter when the weather is usually gloomy. Also, you need to expose a large part of your body, not only your head and hands, to produce enough sun vitamin.
In any of these instances, essentially, you will need to ingest the vitamin naturally through a few foods or supplementation.
D2 Vs. D3
Simply put, vitamin D is a family of nutrients that shares similarities in chemical structure. The most common members in a diet are D2 and D3, as primary dietary forms of the vitamin. Both D2 and D3 can help you meet your vitamin D requirements.
You can find D2 in some foods of plant origin, such as mushrooms. On the other hand, D3 stems from food of animal origin, such as oily fish, fish oil, and egg yolks. In turn, D3 is twice as effective at increasing blood levels of vitamin D when compared to D2. However, D2 is cheaper to produce; thus, it’s the most common form in fortified foods.
Once you store vitamin D in your body through the sun or food, you might only need occasional sunshine to keep the blood level adequate for weeks or months at a time.
Still, even with the proper nutrition and enough sun exposure, it might be challenging to get and maintain adequate amounts of this vitamin. Here’s how to recognize you have vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D Deficiency and Risks
Most people have subtle symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. Still, even those can significantly affect one’s health and impose high health risks.
In general, bone pain and muscle weakness can both indicate this vitamin deficiency. Still, the best way to know if you are vitamin D deficient is you have your blood levels measured.
Your healthcare provider has to measure the storage form of vitamin D that is known as calcifediol. At this point, anything under 12 ng/ml is deficient, and anything above 20 ng/ml is adequate.
The recommended daily intake is 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for children and adults, and 800 IU for older adults and pregnant women.
Experts associate low blood levels of the vitamin with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, and cancer.
On the other side of the spectrum, you can take too much vitamin D, even though this is especially rare to happen. In other words, it’s not easy to overdose on Vitamin D, and Vitamin D toxicity is rare. It can only happen if you take extremely high doses for extended periods.
The main symptoms include confusion, lack of concentration, drowsiness, abdominal pain, depression, high blood pressure, vomiting, and constipation.
Now, onto the more positive aspects regarding this nutrient. Let’s see how you can benefit from an adequate amount of vitamin D in your body.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
There is a surprisingly high amount of benefits from ingesting the proper sun vitamin in the body. So, let’s get right into it!
1. Promotes Bones, Teeth, And Muscle Health
The most recognizable benefit of vitamin D is that it regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. In turn, these two nutrients account for bone, teeth, and muscle health.
That’s why vitamin deficiency can essentially lead to bone deformities, such as rickets in children and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
2. It Might Fight Disease
Vitamin D can reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis, decrease your chances of developing heart disease, and even help you reduce the likelihood of developing the flu.
A study has shown that overweight people with daily vitamin D intake have improved their heart disease risk markers.
3. It Can Reduce Depression
Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is more common in people experiencing anxiety and depression. Scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
In other words, enough consumption can improve an individual’s mood and possibly ward off depression.
4. It Boosts Weight Loss
According to a study, people taking calcium and vitamin D supplements lost more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement. The scientists have indicated the extra calcium, and vitamin D had an appetite-suppressing effect.
5. Improves Pregnancy and Infants’ Health
Scientists link vitamin d deficiency with high blood pressure in children.
Eggs are a common early source of vitamin D. Children who start eating eggs after six months are more likely to develop food allergies than children who begin eating eggs at four months of age.
Taking Vitamin D during pregnancy can also reduce the mother’s risk of pre-eclampsia, low birth weight, and preterm birth.
Insufficient Vitamin D can lead to gestational diabetes and even bacterial vaginosis in pregnant women. It’s why women need to take Vitamin D during pregnancy.
Final Thought – Is Vitamin D Important?
The most straightforward answer is yes, vitamin D is essential in one’s life.
While you can choose how to ingest it, whether, through enough sun exposure, natural foods, or supplementation, you must ensure you absorb enough of it.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to serious health issues in children, adults, and elders. Limited sunshine exposure to specific areas and a small selection of rich dietary sources are the main reasons that lead to deficiency.
In turn, enough vitamin D intake can improve one’s general health, prevent disease, strengthen bones, muscles, reduce depression, improve pregnancy and the infant’s health and promote weight loss.
Let’s say if you are the kind of person who doesn’t eat that much fish or doesn’t enjoy the sunlight, you need to consider supplements to get the level of vitamin D your body requires.
If you want to learn more facts, stats, and tips about proper diet, make sure to check our Food and Nutrition blog category.