Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin D
Vitamin D, commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is considered a pro-hormone and not a vitamin. This is because the human body cannot produce vitamins, and they need to be consumed through diet.
However, Vitamin D is different. It can be synthesized by the human body using the sunlight it catches when we are out and about in the sun. Every cell in the human body is affected by this prohormone. Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, as well as for the absorption of calcium.
Sunlight is an essential source of Vitamin D. However, to ensure sufficient levels of the vitamin in your bloodstream, you can consume certain supplements and food products. Vitamin D3 and Vitamin D2 supplements are best known to help maintain Vitamin D levels in your bloodstream.
Food products like fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, orange juice, soymilk, cereals, cheese, mushrooms, cod-liver oil, sunflower seeds, and egg yolks, are rich sources of Vitamin D. Despite being endowed with plentiful sunlight, Vitamin D deficiency is rampant in India.
Even though Indians receive abundant sunshine throughout the year, vitamin D deficiency is still considered as a growing problem. A high prevalence (50-90%) of vitamin D deficiency along with low dietary calcium intake has been documented in Indian (Kamboj et. al, 2018). Considering this, it is important for Indians to understand the need and the benefits of this sunshine vitamin.
Vitamin D has numerous important functions. Some of them are:
Aids in Calcium Absorption
Adults, as well as children, require a certain amount of Vitamin D in their blood. Vitamin D is vital for strong teeth and healthy bones. It helps the body in calcium absorption, and aids in the regulation of phosphate and calcium levels. Maintaining sufficient levels of Vitamin D are linked to the prevention of osteoporosis. Enough Vitamin D in your body enhances calcium and phosphorus absorption by 30–40% and 80%, respectively.
For Optimal Muscle Function
Athletes are always prone to vitamin D deficiency, which can put them at higher risk for injury and prolonged recovery. Increasing levels of vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation, pain, and myopathy while increasing muscle protein synthesis, ATP concentration, strength, exercise capacity, and physical performance. Athletes who complain about the stress fractures ( tiny cracks in the bone occurred due to repetitive force or overuse of that particular bone) or musculoskeletal pain should get their vitamin D levels checked and rectified through reliable vitamin D supplements.
For Optimal Brain Health
The sunshine vitamin also acts as a hormone and is essential for the stable functioning of the brain. Studies have shown improved Vitamin D levels may help enhance mood. It is also vital in ensuring the good health of blood vessels in the body.
Improves Immune and Heart Heath
Studies in recent times have concluded that Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the prevention of heart diseases, ensures good health of a respiratory and immune system, as well as works towards maintaining breast health. Curious to know how vitamin D can help improve your immunity.
Ideal Vitamin D levels
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a daily supplement of 400 IU/day of vitamin D is necessary for Indians with minimal exposure to sunlight.
There is a growing consensus supported by research, which suggests that we need to consume up to 1,000 IU of Vitamin D to ensure maintaining the required levels in the blood. Many times, doctors recommend maintaining higher levels of Vitamin D depending on your body needs. Therefore, it is essential to take the advice of a doctor before starting supplements for Vitamin D.
Risks of Vitamin D deficiency
In adults, deficiency of Vitamin D is concluded when the blood level is less than 50nmol/L. In children, Vitamin D deficiency is considered when the blood levels show the vitamin content at 25 nmol/L or below. When suffering from a D-deficiency, the body is unable to absorb and maintain the levels of calcium and phosphate. When these minerals are too low in the bloodstream, other hormones work towards releasing them from the bones into the bloodstream to regulate the levels. Vitamin D deficiency in adults affects both the bone, as well as heart health. In children, the deficiency can lead to rickets, which is a progressive weakening and softening of the structure of the bones.
Enhancing Vitamin D in your body
After understanding the benefits of Vitamin D and risks involved when deficient in Vitamin D, it is easy to understand why it is essential for you to pay attention to its levels in your body.
We offer you a few tips to enhance the Vitamin D levels below:
Several food products are naturally rich in Vitamin D. These foods include fish, cod liver oil, fortified orange juice, fortified milk, mushrooms, egg yolk, and cereals. Several dairy products including curd, butter, cream, and cheese are also rich in Vitamin D.
It is known that the main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. However, Indians are increasingly restricted to closed spaces with zero to little exposure to sunlight. Daily exposure to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes is sufficient for the human body to produce a healthy amount of Vitamin D.
A wide range (depending on the IU levels) Vitamin D supplements are available in the market. If you are unable to get an adequate amount of sunlight or include Vitamin D-rich food products in your diet, supplements are a great choice to opt for. However, it is essential to let your doctor or dietician decide the range and frequency of consuming the supplement to ensure proper Vitamin D levels. Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is absorbed better than vitamin D2.