Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
Approximately 50% of the global population suffers from Vitamin D insufficiency. Approximately 2/3rd of the people living in the Northern Climate Zone are considered Vitamin D deficient. Sounds unbelievable right? But these are just cold hard facts.
Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins for the human body. It is also easily available both naturally and through legitimate medical supplements.
In this blog, we are going to discuss –
- What Is Vitamin D?
- Why Is Vitamin D Essential?
- How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Measured?
- How To Treat Vitamin D Deficiency?
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a pro-hormone, fat-soluble vitamin that can be found in various elements of nature. Mainly, there are two forms of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin D2 (“ergocalciferol” or pre-vitamin D) – found in plants
- Vitamin D3 (“cholecalciferol”) – found in sea foods.
However, these are not the only sources of Vitamin D. Fortified milk and sunlight are incredible sources for humans to absorb all the goodness of Vitamin D.
The sun’s Ultra Violet – B rays or UVB rays are absorbed by the dehydrocholesterol in the skin and are converted to previtamin D3.
Technically speaking exposure to natural sunlight is an abundant source of Vitamin D. The close relationship that Vitamin D shares with sunlight is also the reason why it has been nicknamed the “Sunshine Vitamin”.
Since Vitamin D is fat-soluble, it cannot be dissolved in water. It enters the bloodstream directly.
Naturally, one is bound to wonder what makes Vitamin D essential. Is it important for my body to have enough Vitamin D?
Why Is Vitamin D Essential To The Human Body?
Vitamin D, a nutrient and prohormone is a powerful element that happens to play a significant role in maintaining and improving human health.
- Phosphorus and calcium are retained in the body thanks to the role played by Vit-D.
- It is a component of the body that improves bone health.
- Vitamin D also plays an important role in strengthening the immune system.
- It assists the body in fighting off infections.
- Vitamin D reduces inflammation too.
A lack of Vitamin D in the body causes –
- In children, it causes rickets and prevents children from reaching their peak bone mass and genetically determined height.
- In adults, vitamin D deficiency results in abnormal mineralization of the collagen matrix in bone, referred to as osteomalacia
- It can also lead to osteoporosis but only limited evidence is available to support these findings.
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with adverse fertility outcomes including PCOS and hypogonadism, but the evidence is insufficient to establish causality.
- The lack of an appropriate amount of Vitamin D in the body also causes muscle weakness; affecting children, especially those that result in having difficulty in standing and walking.
- In patients who are suffering from Growth Hormone Deficiency, an additional deficiency of Vitamin D can increase cardiovascular and metabolic risk.
Medical bodies and researchers globally are working on a spectrum of studies to determine the role played by Vitamin D in different bodily functions, and the overall health of humans.
But the data so far clearly reveals that Vitamin D is essential for immunity, good bone structure, bone health, and fighting off infections. After surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be safe to say that nutrients and pro-hormones like Vitamin D hold a monumental value for our health.
How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Measured?
To understand how the deficiency of Vitamin D is measured we must first understand how it is measured and what are the normal parameters.
A qualified physician can prescribe a blood test where Vitamin D levels are measured. The 25-hydroxy vitamin D method is the correct way to measure Vitamin D through a blood sample.
The following are globally recognized Vitamin D parameters:
- 400 to 1000 International Units (IU) daily for infants less than one year
- 600 to 1000 IU for children and adolescents from 1 to 18 years
- 1500 to 2000 IU for all adults
If your Vitamin D level falls in the above-mentioned parameters (as appropriate for your age) then you have ample Vitamin D and don’t need to worry about a deficiency.
If however, your Vitamin D is below the prescribed benchmark then you are suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency. In case your Vitamin D test shows that your IU is above the normal benchmark then you have an excess of Vitamin D which is also not good for the body.
How To Treat Vitamin D Deficiency?
Thankfully treating Vitamin D deficiency is not a very complicated task. Most of the treatments are natural and can be incorporated by making lifestyle and dietary changes.
- Exposure to sunlight – This is the key to acquiring Vitamin D naturally.
- Food – There is a variety of food sources for getting Vitamin D into your system organically such as –
- Cod liver oil
- Tuna fish
- Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
- Dairy and plant milks fortified with vitamin D
- Beef liver
- Egg yolk
- Fortified cereals
- Medical Supplements – Vitamin D supplements are available in the market that can be taken after meals to raise your Vitamin D levels.
- Courbebaisse, M. and E. Cavalier, Vitamin D in 2020: An Old Pro-Hormone with Potential Effects beyond Mineral Metabolism. Nutrients, 2020. 12(11).
- Lu, Z., et al., An evaluation of the vitamin D3 content in fish: Is the vitamin D content adequate to satisfy the dietary requirement for vitamin D? J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2007. 103(3-5): p. 642-4.
- Garg, M.K., R. Marwaha, and N. Mahalle, Fortification of Milk with Vitamin-D: Strategy To Eliminate Vitamin D Deficiency In India. 2017.
- Dunlop, E., et al., Vitamin D Fortification of Milk Would Increase Vitamin D Intakes in the Australian Population, but a More Comprehensive Strategy Is Required. Foods, 2022. 11: p. 1369.
- Wacker, M. and M.F. Holick, Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermatoendocrinol, 2013. 5(1): p. 51-108.
- Sizar, O., et al., Vitamin D Deficiency, in StatPearls. 2022, StatPearls Publishing
Written by Coach Nachiketh Shetty