Vitamin D, also widely known as the sunshine vitamin, can be manufactured by the body with sun exposure or consumed in food or Vitamin D medical supplements.
Sufficient vitamin D intake is significant for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Appropriate amounts of Vitamin d are suggested to provide a shield against many diseases and conditions such as cancer, type 1 Diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D has multiple types of roles to perform which aids in maintaining good health of the body.
- Maintain better health of skeletal system and teeth
- Bolster the health of immune system, and nervous system
- Aiding in regulating the insulinlevels and managing diabetes
- Support lung function and cardiovascular health
- Prompting the expression of genes involved in preventing or assuaging the conditions of cancer development.
Vitamin D, even though as the name goes by ‘vitamin’, it is actually a hormone. The reason for the same is that the boy is able to synthesize Vitamin D in the presence of sunlight, while other Vitamins are the nutrients that cannot be manufactured by the body, but, can be only obtained by ingesting the Source of the concerned Vitamin via diet or supplements.
It has been observed that a good sun exposure on the skin for about 5 to 10 minutes for about two to three times in a week allows the body to synthesize sufficient amount of Vitamin d that is required by the body. But the major concern here is Vitamin D has a half-life of only two weeks, which means that the desired amount required for the body can run low, especially during the winter season where the sun exposure is typically low or for the people living at higher latitudes.
Recent studies have observed that up to 50% of adults and children worldwide are vitamin D deficient. There are many factors that contribute to the Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. In the process, the sunlight helps in converting cholesterol on the skin in a specific form of Vitamin D, called Vitamin D 3. Vitamin D 3 is then converted into Calcidiol (25-hydroxyvitamin D3) in the liver. The kidneys then come in an action where they convert this Calcidiol into the active form of Vitamin D , called calcitriol (1,25-hydroxyvitamin D3).
Fast facts on Vitamin D:
Here are some key points about vitamin D:
Vitamin D’s primary role is to support the development and maintenance of skeletal system and teeth.
- A light skinned person with full body exposure to the sun can synthesize up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 in 20 minutes.
- Vitamin D deficiency is a common factor, especially in the elderly, infants, people with dark skin and people living at higher latitudes or are not exposed to the appropriate amount of sun light.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been observed in up to 80% of hip fracture
- 800 IU of vitamin D per day reduces the risk of fracture by 20% in the elderly and decreases the risk of falls.
- The metabolism of vitamin D may be affected by some medications, including barbiturates (drugs that act mainly on the central nervous system to reduce the stimulation in the brain), phenobarbital (a medication recommended by the World Health Organization for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy).
Recommended intake of vitamin D
The measurement of Vitamin D can be done in two ways: In micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU).
One microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D. The recommended intakes of vitamin D throughout life were updated by the US Institutes of Medicine in 2010 and are currently set at:
- Infants 0-12 months – 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children 1-18 years – 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults to age 70 – 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults over 70 – 800 IU (20 mcg)
- Pregnant or lactating women – 600 IU (15 mcg).
Although our body has ability to make vitamin D, there are many reasons that lead to the deficiency. Darker skin pigments and sunscreen use can significantly decrease the body’s ability to absorb the ultraviolet radiation B (UVB) rays required to produce vitamin D.
People, who live in higher latitudes or areas of high pollution, those who stay indoors all day should aim to consume extra vitamin D from food sources whenever possible.
Infants who are exclusively breast-fed are also at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, especially if they are dark-skinned or have minimal sun exposure.