What you need to know about Vitamin D

Vitamin D is not like any of the other vitamins.

How is it produced?

It is a steroid hormone produced from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun. For this reason it is often called the sunshine vitamins.

So, does it mean that all you have to do is step out into the sun?

No. Unfortunately, sun exposure does not produce adequate vitamin D Which means it’s necessary to obtain it from supplements for your diet.

But only a handful of foods are rich in Vitamin D and deficiency is very common for this reason.

First let us understand what is vitamin D. A fat soluble vitamin. vitamin D can be stored in your body for a very long time because it dissolves in fat and oils in your body. 

There are two main dietary forms of Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) –  found in animal foods like fish and egg yolks
  • Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) –  found in plants, mushrooms and yeast

Out of the two forms, Vitamin D3 is twice as effective at increasing the levels of Vitamin D in your blood.

What happens to Vitamin D in your body?

In your body, vitamin D is converted to calcidiol and then converted to calcitriol. After binding to the vitamin D receptor, this is responsible for turning genes on and off.

How do you get Vitamin D?

If you live in an area where you get plenty of sunshine you can probably get enough by sunbathing twice or thrice in a week but you have to expose large parts of your body for this to happen. It cannot just be your hands and face. Also, you cannot be wearing sunscreen or be behind protective cover otherwise you will not produce enough Vitamin D. However, the sun can cause burns and premature skin aging so you cannot be exposed to the sun for long periods of time

If you live in an area where you do not get enough sunshine, you have no other choice but to get it from your diet and supplements.

Which food contains Vitamin D?

Fatty fish and egg yolks contain Vitamin D but you will have to consume it daily to get enough. Some dairy products and cereals are also fortified with vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is fish liver oil like cod liver oil which is very rich in Vitamin D. 

But if you are a vegan or a vegetarian then you will not get vitamin D from your diet and will have to resort to supplements.

What happens when your body does not have enough Vitamin D?

The most well-known symptom is rickets which often occurs in children in developing countries. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to osteoporosis and increased bone fractures in older adults, especially women. Low levels of vitamin D linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and autoimmune diseases

Some of the health benefits of Vitamin D

  • Prevent osteoporosis
  • Prevents Falls
  • Prevents fractures
  • Bone strength
  • Cancer prevention
  • Manages depression
  • Reduces risk of diabetes
  • Increases mortality

How much vitamin D do you need?

To answer that question, you will have to know if you are deficient and by how much.

The RDI for vitamin D is as follows

  • 10 mcg: 0–12 months
  • 15 mcg: 1–70 years old
  • 20 mcg: >70 years, expecting mothers and breastfeeding mothers
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