Vitamin D- The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D has numerous roles in our body than the other vitamins. As it promotes the calcium and phosphorus absorption in our body, it becomes essential for our bone health. It also regulates the immune functions and inflammations. Research shows that Vitamin D can reduce the growth of cancer cells. The contraction and relaxation of muscles of our body is made possible with the help of this vitamin thus providing a skeletal framework for the body. It plays a major role in metabolism, cell growth and cell repair. It helps in maintaining the proper weight and thereby reducing obesity.
Sources of Vitamin D
The ultimate source of vitamin D is the sun, particularly, the Ultraviolet B rays of wavelength 290 nm to 320 nm. The chances for the supply of vitamin D through diet is very less. Nonetheless, few foods like fatty fish, mushrooms, cod-liver oil, red meat, egg yolks, milk fortified with vitamin D etc act as a source of this vitamin. Vitamin D supplements are also available in the markets.
The optimal level of vitamin D in our body is from 30 to 50 nanogram per milliliter. A person with an amount ranging from 10 to 20 ng/ml is said to be deficient in this vitamin. 5 to 10 ng/ml indicates its severe deficiency and less than that is even worse. Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent worldwide. Even though India is a blessed country since sun shines here all year long, 76% of Indians suffer from vitamin D deficiency as per the studies published in May,2020. Indian diet fails to satisfy the requirements for a normal D- level. Lack of sun exposure, conditions that limit the fat absorption, pigmentation of the skin etc leads to the deficiency.The deficiency can be more in people with high melanin (dark skinned) content. In older adults, the ability of skin to produce this vitamin decreases. High level of body fat in obese people can also limit the ability of the body to absorb vitamin from the skin.
Why is it so important ?
Severe deficiency can cause decline in the calcium levels (Hypocalcemia) and this leads to an overactive parathyroid gland. These conditions can make the bones and muscles weak. This vitamin plays a vital role in the mental health of the person. Severe deficiency of vitamin D can cause mood swings and depression. Researchers have found that depression is associated with the low levels of this vitamin in the body. Experience has been reported on improvement in their depressive mood after taking the supplements. But the findings are mixed and the relation between vitamin D and depression has to be explored. The deficiency can increase the risk of osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children. Vitamin D boosts the mood, aids weight loss, reduces the risk of heart attacks, and lowers the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Deficiency can cause prolonged fatigue and hair loss.
Treating the deficiency aims at improving the amount of this vitamin in our body. Harnessing the power of the sun can improve the D – level in the body significantly. Eating a healthy diet with more of this vitamin will support this improvement. Supplements can be taken on doctor’s advice. Adults should ensure 1500 – 2000 International Units (IU) of this vitamin daily.
Vitamin D toxicity
The increase in the amount above the optimal level leads to toxicity of this vitamin. It may lead to hypercalcemia, which is the buildup of calcium in the body . It can cause fatigue, frequent urination, and vomiting. This can also lead to bone pain, kidney diseases etc. Treating this includes restricting vitamin D intake and dietary calcium.