The most vital thing you can do about your health is to know about the advantages of Vitamin D and sunlight exposure. According to John J Cannell, MD, executive director of Vitamin D Council, being aware of your Vitamin D status is the most crucial and simple thing you can do for your health.
The information in this article will help you gain good knowledge about the health benefits of Vitamin D. You can also know about the supplements and the effective sun exposure to get more vitamin D.
Vitamin D (also called as Sunshine Vitamin) is available in two forms: Cholecalciferol and Ergocalciferol, better known as Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) is the actual vitamin human body produces (in skin) when it is exposed to sunlight (UVA & UVB rays). Plants or fungus manufacture vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol). You can include it through fortified foods such as juices, milk or cereals. Animal products are also a good source of vitamin D.
Why Vitamin D Is Important?
For healthy growth, development and maintenance of human body Vitamin D is very important. It regulates the production of phosphorous and calcium in the body through intestines.
Vitamin D is essential for bones as it makes them strong and healthy. Vitamin D plays a vital role in transferring excess calcium to the bones and teeth rather than accumulating it in the soft tissues of the body.
Vitamin D gives strength to the muscles, cartilages and tissues of the body. If it is present in appropriate quantity in the body, it reduces pains and decreases calcium deficiency
In our body Cholecalciferol is converted to Calcidiol in the liver, (a form of Vitamin D3 found in blood). Calcidiol is then converted to calcitriol in the kidney. Calcitriol controls many metabolic processes in the body and also controls gene regulation.
Benefits Of Vitamin D3
According to a 2007 report published in The New England Journal of Medicine, there are many health benefits associated with vitamin D.
#1. Bones: Vitamin D increases bone mineral density and decreases fractures.
#2. Cancer: It decreases the chance of developing Breast, Colon and Rectal Cancer.
#3. Pregnancy: Vitamin D plays a major role in cell growth, neuromuscular function, and proper immune function. Evidence-based research studies conclude that the pregnant women who took Vitamin D supplements had their off springs with more than 40 percent reduced risk of asthma.
#4. Diabetes: Higher levels of vitamin D in blood help reduce the risk of type-1 diabetes by almost 40 per cent.
#5. Tuberculosis: According to a research study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, the progression of Tuberculosis is associated with Vitamin D deficiency.
#6. Respiratory Infections: Vitamin D reduces burden of respiratory infections.
#7. Cardiac Health: Low vitamin D levels are often associated with cardiovascular disease and research-based evidence suggests that vitamin D decreases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
How Vitamin D Works?
Vitamin D helps in the regulation of calcium. It helps in calcium and phosphorus absorption from the food we eat (inside out gut: intestine), and then assist the movement of calcium to the bones and teeth rather than the soft tissues. It helps in the formation of bones and teeth and gives strength to the bones (ODS NIH: Vitamin D)
Vitamin D reduces inflammation and increases muscle strength and maintains muscle function. Apart from being a Vitamin, Vitamin D can also be considered as a hormone. Vitamin D as a hormone supports many vital glands and organs including testes, ovaries, pituitary, uterus, heart, brain, thymus, the parathyroid glands and mammary tissue.
Deficiency Of Vitamin D
According to a new study published in the Journal Pediatrics, deficiency of Vitamin D in the mother during pregnancy affects the baby as well. This may increase the risk of getting eczema in the baby during the first year of her or his life.
Deficiency of Vitamin D is prominent in pregnant women, especially among the world’s coolest and darkest countries women. This can be reduced through vitamin D supplements. Thus, the onset of multiple sclerosis in their offspring’s can be minimized.
According to Dr Vikas Ahluwalia, senior consultant of Internal Medicine at Max Super speciality hospital, vitamin D deficiency among young people has increased over the last couple of years, especially among those who are living in metros.
Young adults often suffer from the symptoms like backache, leg pain, joint pain and lethargy.
This relates to symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. A diet deficient in Vitamin D or less exposure to sun, results in calcium-depleted bone (Osteomalacia). Bones become weak, and muscles also become weak. This increases the risk of bone fractures as the bones become brittle (ODS NIH: Vitamin D).
Research showed that a deficiency in Vitamin D3 leads to type-1 or type-2 diabetes. There are a number of studies linking lower vitamin D levels and higher anemia risk.
Deficiency of vitamin D along with calcium is one of the prominent reasons for osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis (The John Hopkins Arthritis Center). In children, deficiency of vitamin D causes rickets and skeletal deformities.
Reason For Vitamin D Deficiency
Less exposure to the sun and frequent use of sunscreen to protect our body from sun leads to lack of vitamin D, a vital life-sustaining and body building nutrient. Deficiency of Vitamin D is prominent in those people who work indoors and get less exposure to beneficial sunlight.
Vitamin D levels are usually low during the winter season as there is hardly any sunlight intensity to induce our skin to make vitamin D. This especially happens during October to February.
When vitamin D levels are low, we must obtain it through our diet or with vitamin D tablets, or else we have to suffer severe consequences. Inadequate amounts of vitamin D can be compensated through high-quality supplements.
Who Requires Vitamin D?
The following categories of people require Vitamin D:
- Those who do not get enough exposure to sunlight.
- Those who stay indoors for longer period.
- Those who stay in countries where sunlight is scanty.
In India, Vitamin D deficiency is more common in pregnant women, school children, young adults and elderly.
Natural Sources Of Vitamin D
According to the University Of Maryland Medical Center, the natural vitamin D rich foods include liver, meat, cheese, yogurt, fortified cereals, fortified milk, fish, egg, etc.
However, most of the vitamin D we get is through the exposure to sunlight or dietary supplements. Other sources: Animals, Plants and some algae and fungus.
Doctors Statements On Vitamin D
#1. Dr. Greg Plotnikoff: Because vitamin D is so cheap, and so clearly reduces all-cause mortality, I can say this with great certainty:
Vitamin D represents the single most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States. ~ Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, Medical Director, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
#2. Dennis Mangan: This is like the Holy Grail of cancer medicine; vitamin D produced a drop in cancer rates greater than that for quitting smoking, or indeed any other countermeasure in existence. ~ Dennis Mangan, clinical laboratory scientist.
#3. Dr. Cedric F. Garland: No other method to prevent cancer has been identified that has such a powerful impact. ~ Dr. Cedric F. Garland, vitamin D expert and Professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego
#4. Dr. JoAnn Manson: I do think vitamin D is one of the most promising nutrients for prevention of cardiac disease and cancer, and I believe in it strongly. ~ Dr. JoAnn Manson, Professor, Department of Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Chief of Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Precaution: As a matter of fact anything that is in excess is harmful or toxic to the body; this is true even for water too. Vitamin D is harmful when it is in excess.
But, the toxicity related to vitamin D is very rare because it is one of the safest substances the human body can produce. The risk associated with its deficiency is rather more than its toxicity.
One of the forms of Vitamin D, i.e., Vitamin D2 is broken down by our body into different substances, some of which can be harmful. The other form of Vitamin D, i.e., Vitamin D3 is broken down into calcitriol that has cancer-fighting properties in it.
So, if you are looking for vitamin D supplements, especially D3, then go for a pill or liquid form.