Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins produced by our body. These are the secosteroid hormones consisting of calciferol (vitamin D3), and ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2).
Vitamin D3 is considered to be the powerful one of the two types. It raises Vitamin D levels in the blood approximately twice as much as D2.
Requirement Daily Amount
0-12 months- 10 micrograms
1-70 years – 15 micrograms
>70 years – 20 micrograms
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
However, some studies show that a daily intake of 25-100 micrograms is needed in people living in different parts of the world to maintain optimal levels of Vitamin D.
Sources of Vitamin D
- Sun exposure- Sun exposure is an easy and most reliable way for most people to get vitamin D. Vitamin D requirements can be met only by sun exposure in summers.
Exposing your face, hands, arms, feet, and legs to sunlight at least 2-3 times a week for about 1/4th of the time it takes to develop mild sunburn will stimulate the skin to produce Vitamin D.
The optimal sunlight exposure time varies according to the different factors like age, skin type, melanin content, season, time of the day, weather conditions, and climatic conditions.
Studies suggest that 6 days of sunlight exposure without applying sunscreen can make do for 49-50 days of no sunlight exposure. Isn’t it amazing! Body fat is the storage house for Vitamin D and releases the vitamin D when there is no other source available for Vitamin D.
In India, the best time for sun exposure to produce Vitamin D without potential damage to our body is 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM.
Elderly and children are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency because of the following reasons:
- They spend less time in the sun as their old bodies are not strong enough to handle the heat and children nowadays have schools and their playtime is also mainly indoors.
- People of old age have fewer receptors in their skin that are helpful in converting sunlight into Vitamin D.
- They might have issues absorbing Vitamin D in their body even if they get it through supplements.
- Children with dark skin colour, excess body fat, and those living at high altitudes are at higher risk.
Vitamin D deficiency in children can easily lead to disability like bow legs, fracture due to brittle bones, skull malformation, and pelvic deformity.
- Natural Foods that contain vitamin D.
||Vitamin D in micrograms
|Fatty fish like salmon
|Mushrooms exposed to UV light
|Fortified orange juice
- Health BenefitsSupplements- Supplements are needful for the elderly, people living far from the equator, and in the winter season. They are manufactured worldwide and can be chosen according to personal preferences.
Maintains Body’s Strength and Shape
Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining strong bones and teeth. Without optimal levels of Vitamin D in the body, bones become thin and brittle. Enough Vitamin D prevents rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adult people.
It helps our body fight against inflammation and aids in great recovery. It also helps in the modulation of cell growth.
Maintains Cardiovascular and Nervous Function
It maintains heart action while aiding in dissolving plaque in the bloodstream preventing the vessels from getting clogged. It also enhances the nervous system function.
Boosts Immune System
Although there is not much evidence of Vitamin D boosting our immune system but is found that Covid-19 has severely affected the countries with citizens having low Vitamin D levels like Italy, Spain, etc. but the North European and Asian countries except china (since it was the origin of the pandemic), were relatively less affected by the virus. It is said that when your body’s Vitamin D level is in the 50-80 ng/ml, your immune system is at its best.
So we can say that Vitamin D does play an important role in our body/s immune function. Not only against Covid-19 but numerous other fatal diseases can be successfully avoided by maintaining optimal levels of Vitamin D in our body.
Absorption of Calcium and Phosphate
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium and phosphate, which is good for strong and healthy bones.
- Treats psoriasis
- Possible prevention of diabetes
Deficiency of Vitamin D causes:
- Increased risk of heart diseases
- Impaired bone mineralization and bone pain.
- Muscle weakness
- Possible risk of autoimmune diseases
Excess of Vitamin D intake can cause a potentially consequential condition called Hypervitaminosis D, usually the result of taking supplements rich in Vitamin D and Calcium. Since it increases calcium levels in the body, its excess can cause serious health issues.
- Consuming supplements (more than optimal quantity).
- Supplement intake without doctor’s advice.
- Some medicines tend to increase vitamin levels in body like digoxin (used to treat heart problems) or (thiazide diuretics) high blood pressure. Other medicines like antacids, antituberculosis medications, and isoniazide etc.
Hypervitaminosis D can cause:
- Weight loss
- Heart arrhythmias
- Vascular and tissue calcification (due to raised calcium levels in the blood).
- It can worsen Lymphoma and kidney disease (again due to excessive calcium).
Should people taking anti-epileptic drugs consume Vitamin D supplements?
Anti-epileptic drugs tend to hamper with calcium content in the body making bones and joints brittle and painful. However, Vitamin D is the key vitamin for calcium regulation in the body. Patients under anti-epileptic medications get their Vitamin D and calcium levels tested twice annually. Targeted supplementation is then given accordingly in order to prevent osteopathy and Hypervitaminosis D.
Does cooking destroy Vitamin D?
Cooking may cause detrimental loss of vitamin D, but it depends on the actual foodstuffs and the heating process.
Beings fat-soluble, vitamin D content is lost when we cook them in butter or oils.
Baking and boiling do not cause much damage to Vitamin D.
Jakobsen J, Knuthsen P. Stability of vitamin D in foodstuffs during cooking. Food Chem. 2014;148:170-175. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.10.043