Vitamin D is one of the most important minerals required by the body. It is also known as the sunshine vitamin which is produced by the body when exposed to the sun. Besides, there are many foods available which are a rich source of Vitamin D. Our body requires enough Vitamin D for the maintenance of bones and teeth, boosting the immune system, maintenance of the nervous system, regulation of insulin levels, and supporting the functioning of lungs and our cardiovascular health.
What is Vitamin D?
Despite how it may seem, Vitamin D is a pro-hormone (and not a vitamin) produced by the body. Unlike any other vitamin, our body can synthesize Vitamin D on being exposed to the sun. Being under the sun’s exposure for around 10 minutes around 3 times a week can produce sufficient Vitamin D. But the supply of Vitamin D in the body can run low since it breaks down quickly.
Health benefits of Vitamin D
1. Healthy bones
To maintain the health of bones, it is important to have sufficient levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body. The availability of Vitamin D helps in regulating levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
Deficiency of Vitamin D can cause a disease known as rickets. The disease softens bones and makes one bow-legged. In adults, Vitamin D
In adults, deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is one of the most common diseases in post-menopausal women.
2. Prevents cancer
Vitamin D is essential for the regulation of cell growth and communication. Sufficient levels of Vitamin D slow down the growth and development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue and increases the death of cancer cells.
3. Reduces risk of diabetes
Sufficient levels of Vitamin D in the body can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. People suffering from type 2 diabetes will have a negative impact on insulin secretion if their Vitamin D levels are lower than required.
4. Reduces risk of flu
Sufficient levels of Vitamin D helps in reducing the risks of diseases like flu.
5. Ensures healthy pregnancy
Vitamin D is considered an essential requirement for a healthy pregnancy. The deficiency of Vitamin D in pregnant women can increase the chances of cesarean section. Bacterial vaginosis and gestational diabetes are other risks posed by a deficiency of Vitamin D in pregnant women.
However, the levels need to be regulated as high levels of Vitamin D can make the child prone to food allergies during the first 2 years after birth.
Vitamin D deficiency
Even though the body creates Vitamin D, the deficiency can occur because of reasons like darker skin colour or excessive use of sunscreen. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 are capable of reducing the body’s ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
For producing Vitamin D, the body has to be directly exposed to sunlight and not covered by it.
Also, people who stay at northern altitudes or places with high pollution can also be deficient in Vitamin D. They can extract Vitamin D from food sources.
While Vitamin D supplements can be consumed as well, it is recommended to take Vitamin D from as natural sources as possible.
Deficiency of Vitamin D can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, autism, hypertension, Alzheimer’s diseases, asthma, swine flu, and multiple sclerosis to name a few.
Symptoms of deficiency of Vitamin D
Some common symptoms of Vitamin D include a poor immune system which makes you fall sick too often; constantly feeling tired or fatigue; pain in the bones and back; depressed mood; slower healing of wounds; loss of hair and muscle pain.
If the deficiency of Vitamin D continues for a long period of time, it can lead to conditions like obesity, diabetes, depression, hypertension, chronic fatigue symptoms, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The recommended intake of Vitamin D
According to the US Institutes of Medicine, the recommended intake of infants up to 12 months is 10 micrograms (mcg), 15 mcgs in children from 1 to 18 years of age, 15 mcg in adult up to the age of 70, and 20 mcg in adults over 70 years of age. Pregnant or lactating women should get at least 15 mcg of Vitamin D.
Food sources of Vitamin D
Fish oil and fatty fish are considered to be good sources of Vitamin D. Besides, cod liver oil, salmon, sardines, fortified skimmed milk, tuna, eggs, and chicken are all foods rich in Vitamin D.
Health risks of consuming too much Vitamin D
If Vitamin D is consumed in excess amounts, it can lead to over calcification of bones, and hardening of kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, and heart. Also, consuming Vitamin D in excess amounts can lead to conditions like headache, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, constipation, and diarrhoea to name a few.
So, instead of focusing on one particular mineral, one should focus on consuming a balanced diet which includes a variety of minerals.