What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin meaning that it dissolves in fats and oils and can be stored in your body for a long time.
Two main dietary forms exist:
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol)
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol)
Of the two, D3 (cholecalciferol) seems to be almost twice as effective at increasing blood levels of vitamin D as D2 (ergocalciferol)
What are sources of vitamin D?
1. Food Sources:
- Vitamin D3 = Found in some animal foods, cod liver oil and fatty fish (mackerel, sardines, trout, salmon) and egg yolks
Found in some plants, mushrooms, and yeasts
- Food fortification = Margarine, cereals & maize meal
2. Sun exposure
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone produced from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is not from the sun , but rather sun exposure increases the production of vitamin D through the skin
Sun exposure is the most effective way of vitamin D production
3. Vitamin D Supplementation
- Consult with your health care provider before taking any supplements
- Vitamin D3 supplements seem to be more effective than vitamin D2
What is the fuss of vitamin D and sun?
Sunshine Is an Effective Way to Get Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be produced from cholesterol in your skin when it’s exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun.
If you live in an area with abundant sunshine, you can probably get all the vitamin D you need by sunbathing a few times per week. Keep in mind that you need to expose a large part of your body. If you’re only exposing your face and hands, you will produce much less vitamin D. Also, if you stay behind glass or use sunscreen, you will produce much less vitamin D.
However, sunscreen is important when staying in the sun for extended periods. Sunshine is healthy, but sunburns can cause skin problems and raise your risk of certain skin cancers
If you’re staying in the sun for a long time, consider going without sunscreen for the first 10 minutes — depending on your sensitivity to sunlight — then applying it before you start to burn.
Vitamin is stored in your body for weeks or months at a time, you may only need occasional sunshine to keep your blood levels adequate. However, if you live in an area without adequate sunlight, getting vitamin D from foods or supplements is essential — especially during winter.
What are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?
Children and older adults are at a much greater risk of being deficient. The symptoms are usually subtle and may take years or decades to surface.
Those who have certain diseases are also very likely to be deficient. One study showed that 96% of people who had experienced heart attacks were low in vitamin D.
The most well-known symptom of vitamin D deficiency:
- Rickets, a bone disease common in children in developing countries.
- Deficiency is also linked to osteoporosis, reduced mineral density, and increased risk of falls and fractures in older adults.
- More research is need but low vitamin D levels have a much greater risk of heart disease, diabetes (types 1 and 2), cancer, dementia, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.
- It is also linked to a reduced life expectancy
Basically, research suggests that vitamin D may have numerous benefits related to cancer, bone health, mental health, and autoimmune diseases.
Any link between Vitamin D and other nutrients?
Nutrients do not work in isolation, many of them depend on one another, and increased intake of one nutrient may increase your need for another.
Some researchers claim that fat-soluble vitamins work together and that it’s crucial to optimize your vitamin A and K intake while supplementing with vitamin D3.
Another important mineral often lacking in the modern diet is magnesium which may also be important for vitamin D function
Take home message:
- Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin important for bone health
- Your skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Foods like fatty fish, fish oil, and liver also contain vitamin D — as well as certain fortified foods and supplements.
- For those low in this nutrient, increasing intake may also reduce depression and improve strength.
- If you don’t spend much time in the sun and rarely eat fatty fish, consider supplementing but consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplement
- Getting enough vitamin D can go a long way to boosting your health