There has been a lot of talks lately about the roles and importance of vitamin D and that is justified. When this vitamin is mentioned, people immediately associate it with bone health. And that is true. Vitamin D is important for the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, minerals crucial for bone health.
However, the popularity of this fat-soluble vitamin in recent times is due to the fact that new news about it is constantly published in scientific journals – a whole range of its new functions and influences.
With this, scientists show us that vitamin D is significantly more important than previously thought, so we need to be more careful if we have it in sufficient quantities.
Immunomodulator, significant influence on autoimmune diseases, malignant diseases, metabolic syndrome, and the list goes on and on.
The importance of vitamin D is shown by the fact that every single cell in the body needs it, ie it is responsible for as many as 4000 cellular processes.
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Hormone or vitamin?
Few people know that although it refers to a vitamin, it is also a prohormone or hormone precursor. The definition of vitamins is compounds that the body can not synthesize on its own, and are necessary in small quantities to perform some important processes in the body.
Vitamin D can be synthesized and has a much more complex effect than other vitamins in the body, but still, its synthesis goes under the action of sunlight, so it is included in the vitamins.
Synthesis of vitamin D
Vitamin D in the body is produced in the skin in the form of provitamin, and under the action of sunlight UV is transformed into active vitamin D. Our skin, when exposed to direct sunlight, produces a sufficient amount of vitamin D, and sun exposure is the safest way to synthesize it.
The importance of vitamin D for health
As we have mentioned, the range of roles of this vitamin in the organism is wide, and additionally, new ones are discovered. Thus, its role in overall health is very important.
1) Healthy bones – an essential vitamin for bones. It plays a role in the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, minerals key to bone health. Maintaining a normal concentration of vitamin D, especially in older men and women, is a primary factor in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.
2) Immunomodulator – a series of studies indicate that it reduces the risk of viral and bacterial infections.
3) Healthy pregnant women, newborns, and children – just a few facts about the poor health of children as a result of vitamin D deficiency: increased blood pressure, susceptibility to asthma, susceptibility to allergies to various foods, etc. In pregnant women, vitamin D deficiency leads to preeclampsia, bacterial vaginosis, and some studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy leads to autism in newborns.
Other roles and benefits:
• Healthy skin
• Growth and reproduction of cells
• Regulation of certain hormones
• Healthy brain and mental health
• Reduced risk of malignant and cardiovascular diseases
• Protective effect concerning diabetes
• Efficiency of most types of arthritis
• New research shows protective action about most autoimmune diseases
Vitamin D deficiency
Deficiency of this vitamin is present almost everywhere, but why is it so, especially in countries where the sun’s rays are present for most of the year?
Does the way of life allow us enough exposure? Construction workers and farmers, for example, do not have a deficit, but the vast majority of people work in office work, so their exposure is minimal.
A few minutes of sun exposure on the face and hands is far from enough. Additionally, the problem is in what part of the day do we go out, then, perhaps more importantly, what month is it?
Studies show that in certain months of the year and the exposure to the sun does not produce vitamin D. These are the winter and autumn months, and even part of the spring. The reason is the angle of the sun’s rays.
The production of vitamin D begins abruptly in May and June, but in the period from 10 am to 3 pm. We must learn to use this period.
Dangers of deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- constant susceptibility to infections
- chronic fatigue
- bone, muscle, joint pain
- impaired mood
- impaired wound healing
- hair loss
- headaches, depression
If the deficiency persists over a long period, more serious complications are possible, such as:
- cardiovascular diseases
- autoimmune diseases
- neurological diseases
- complications of pregnancy
- certain types of malignancies, 6 groups of malignancies are directly related – hematological, breast cancer, colon, lung, lung, skin, and prostate
Which people are at particular risk of deficiency?
- people living in the far north of the planet
- those living in cities with high pollution
- those who use sunscreen too often
- office workers and people who spend most of the day indoors
- those who have a darker complexion ( higher melanin levels lead to less absorption of vitamin D by the skin)
Determination of vitamin D in the blood
Almost half of the population, after the age of 40, has reduced levels of Vitamin D. The status of this vitamin in the body is determined by measuring the level of 25 (OH) D in the serum. It is recommended to check it at the beginning of menopause, as one of the ways to prevent osteoporosis, because chronic vitamin D deficiency can not be solved overnight and it takes a long time to make up for it.
Vitamin D from foods of animal origin or that which our body produces is called vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), while that of plant origin is called vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol. Vitamin D3 is far more active and effective.
According to the WHO, 75-250nmol / L is the range of normal values in the blood of vitamin D,50-75nmol / L – moderate deficiency, anything below 50nmol / L – absolute deficiency of vitamin D.
Food as a source of vitamin D
Foods rich in vitamin D:
• egg yolk
• cow’s milk, but also vegetable milk that is enriched with vitamin D
However, diet is not the most appropriate source of this vitamin. Sun exposure and supplementation are more effective ways to get enough vitamin D.
Safe exposure to the sun
The sun is the best “source” of vitamin D. Although we know that UV sun rays can do damage, exposing large areas of our skin to the sun for a few minutes (10-15 minutes) is not harmful, on the contrary, it provides us with the production of vitamin D which is enough for the daily amounts needed.
If we intend that exposure to be effective, the skin should not be coated with creams with a UV protection factor. Those with a darker complexion need to be exposed to longer periods of sunlight.
In children up to 5 years, vitamin D can be supplemented in almost any case. Pregnant women often need supplementation, too.
However, adults should be especially careful not to take supplements on their own, as more serious problems are possible. An additional problem is that the poisoning with this vitamin itself may not show any symptoms at the beginning.
Hypervitaminosis of vitamin D is associated, above all, with problems in the metabolism of calcium in the body, ie hypercalcemia. It rarely occurs through diet, and it has been scientifically proven that it is impossible for vitamin D hypervitaminosis to occur from sun exposure. When the body produces enough vitamin D, its anabolism stops. So, this is only possible through supplementation.
To know how much and when we can use supplements, we need to check the levels of vitamin D in the blood, but it is very important to know the levels of calcium and parathyroid hormone, and it is good to have the parameters of kidney function. The damage to the thyroid gland can be great if you take vitamin D, and it is not known what its condition is.
The dosage will depend on the condition with the mentioned parameters.