Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption in the body and plays an essential role in maintaining the proper bone structure. Vitamins are vital for many enzymatic reactions but can't be produced by the body, so they must be made available exogenously through daily foods. However, vitamins D and K are exceptions in that they can be produced within the body.
Vitamin D intake should be 400 international units (IU) for children younger than one year, 600 IU for people who are between 1 and 70 years, and 800 IU for people older than 70 years. People with known vitamin D deficiency should consult their doctor for an optimal dose.
Exogenous intake of vitamin D during pregnancy should be discussed with the gynecologist.
What are the sources of vitamin D?
Different forms of vitamin D have been discovered to date, including ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). On exposure to sunlight, vitamin D is produced endogenously in the skin. It is then stored in fat during periods of sunlight and then released when sunlight is not available.
Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, which include:
- The flesh of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel and fish liver oils are among the best sources.
- Beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese have a variable amount of vitamin D, primarily in the form of vitamin D3.
- Fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, oatmeal, orange juice, soy milk, almond milk, cow’s milk, and nuts are good sources of vitamin D.
- Mushrooms provide a small amount of vitamin D2. Moreover, mushrooms that are available on the market nowadays have been treated with ultraviolet light to increase their levels of vitamin D2.
What are the functions of vitamin D?
Vitamin D acts both as a nutrient and hormone has a wide range of therapeutic efficacies that include:
- Calcium is absorbed by the body due to the presence of vitamin D. This is beneficial for the natural growth and remodeling of the bones. Calcium provides the body with a strong and perfect skeletal structure and reduces the risk of fracture, strengthens the bones, and maintains overall body balance.
- A by-product of vitamin D provides strength and support to the skeletal frame of the body and helps in the contraction and relaxation of the muscles.
- Vitamin D is essential for dental health because it prevents tooth decay and loss, strengthens the gums, and reduces the risk of any oral infection.
- It plays an important role in regulating renal functions and protecting the kidneys from any infections.
- It has a major role in cellular growth, repair, and metabolism. Sunlight exposure is very effective in wound healing and repair.
- Moreover, it plays a key role in reducing obesity and maintaining proper weight. The abundance of vitamin D helps restore the action of the appetite hormone leptin, which gives a feeling of fullness and reduces the tendency of snacking, thus aiding in weight loss.
What are the benefits of vitamin D?
Vitamin D has multiple benefits in the body such as it:
- Promotes healthy bones and teeth.
- Reduces the acceleration of osteoporosis.
- Supports immune, brain, and nervous system health.
- Regulates insulin levels, supporting diabetes management.
- Supports lung function and cardiovascular health.
- Influences gene expressions that are involved in cancer development.
Which conditions do vitamin D deficiency lead to?
Vitamin D deficiency leads to diseases such as:
- Rickets: Rickets are caused by a lack of vitamin D and are generally seen in children. The condition is characterized by reduced growth and softening of the bones. This leads to the development of very thin, deformed bones and a bowed backbone.
- Osteomalacia: Osteomalacia is usually seen in elderly people with vitamin D deficiency. It is characterized by reduced absorption of calcium in the body, leading to soft and deformed bone structure, bending of the spinal cord and legs, and an increased risk of fractures.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is most common in vitamin D deficiencies. It leads to bone density loss, making bones more porous in nature, and increases the risk of broken bones and fractures.
However, other than this, low levels of vitamin D in the body can increase the risk of infections, reduce wound healing, and cause fatigue and weakness.
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