In this article:
- What is Vitamin D?
- Vitamin D Deficiency
- How much Vitamin D do I need? And where can I find it?
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What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin; it dissolves in fats and oils. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone, that is produced by the human body from cholesterol, as a response to sun exposure . There are two main dietary forms of Vitamin D:
- Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol); found in plants, mushrooms, and yeasts.
- Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol): found in animal foods, like egg yolks and fatty fish.
Vitamin D3 is found to be more effective at raising Vitamin D levels in your blood. Thus, Vitamin D3 is the preferred choice for supplementation .
Once in your body, Vitamin D undergoes two conversion steps to become active in your body. First, it gets converted in your liver into calcidiol. Next, it is converted to calcitriol in your kidneys. When this active form of Vitamin D binds with the Vitamin D receptor (found in most cells in the body), it turns genes on and off, leading to changes in your cells .
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for bone health to support effective absorption of calcium and phosphorous from food, as well as collagen production. It has multiple roles in the body:
- Promoting teeth- and bone health. Vitamin D plays a big role in regulating calcium and maintaining the phosphorus levels in the blood, which are crucial for maintaining healthy bones.
- Supporting immune, brain and nervous system health. Deficiency in Vitamin D has found to be associated with harming the immune function and increasing risk of infection.
- Regulating insulin levels. Vitamin D is thought to help boost insulin sensitivity, which is vital for blood glucose regulation.
- Supporting cardiovascular health and lung function. A deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased risk of heart failure.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Even though Vitamin D is often called the Sunshine vitamin. About 15 to 20 minutes of exposure to the sun three days per week should be sufficient . However, exposure to the sun rarely provides enough Vitamin D. In places where daily sun-hours are scarce, it is easy to get a Vitamin D deficiency. Around 41% of the U.S. population has a Vitamin D deficiency . Then, it is necessary to obtain extra Vitamin D from your diet and supplements are necessary.
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency may include fatigue, bone and back pain, low mood, muscle pain, impaired wound healing, and regular sickness and infection. A deficiency can occur for many reasons:
- Skin type: Darker skin reduces the body’s ability to absorb the ultraviolet radiation rays from the sun, which is essential for the skin to produce Vitamin D.
- Sunscreen & clothing: SPF reduces the body’s ability to absorb sun rays, and reduces the body’s ability to synthesize the vitamin. Covering the skin with clothing can also inhibit Vitamin D production.
- Geographical location: People living in northern countries – as well as areas with high pollution – are exposed less to sunshine and thus Vitamin D.
It is important to get enough Vitamin D, as it helps protecting you against a string of conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, immune system disorders, and infection .