Vitamin D is crucial for overall good health as well as healthy and strong bones. It’s also a critical factor in ensuring one’s muscles, lungs, brain and heart work well and that the body is well equipped to fight infection. The human body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight but it can also be sourced from supplements, and a subtle amount is contained in foods.
Vitamin D Benefits
The amount of vitamin the skin produces depends on factors such as the time of the day, the season, the amount of cloud cover and pollution and where one lives. It is the ultraviolet light in sunlight that is used by the skin to make the vitamin. Some of the foods that contain it include cod liver oil, swordfish, salmon, tuna, vitamin fortified milk, liver and egg yolk among others. Be sure to check product labels as the vitamin concentration varies when it’s officially added to products such as margarine, orange juice and yogurt. Given that there are a limited number of foods that contain the vitamin, not to mention, too much exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and or increase the risk of skin cancer, it’s important to consider the addition of supplements.
Once the body has converted the vitamin from sunlight and supplements to a usable form, it is used to manage the calcium level in blood, bones and gut, and to help cells all over the body to communicate properly. Calcium and phosphorus are essential for developing the strength and structure of one’s bones, and vitamin D is needed to absorb these minerals. Today, it is seen as essential part of good health, and it has a significant role to play not just for bone health.
Vitamin D may have plenty of other important functions in the body including regulating cell growth, immune and neuromuscular function, and reducing inflammation. Currently, there is still plenty of research on the various other functions it might perform on the body. Getting sufficient amounts of the vitamin every day has been shown to reduce the risk of falling in older individuals.
Some evidence based on medical research suggests that the vitamin may be important in preventing other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Several studies have shown a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in people with higher blood concentrations of vitamin D. In the case of type 2 diabetes, insufficient levels of the vitamin may have an adverse effect on glucose tolerance and insulin secretion. Another study revealed that infants who received the recommended daily dose had a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by age 32.
Infants with normal blood pressure who were given sufficient doses of the vitamin had considerably lower arterial wall stiffness after four months as compared to infants who didn’t get adequate doses. D-deficiency has also been associated with severity and a higher risk of allergic disease and atopic childhood diseases, including eczema, asthma and atopic dermatitis. The vitamin has also been shown to enhance anti-inflammatory processes, making it potentially useful in supportive therapy for steroid-resistant asthma.
Vitamin D is extremely critical for cell-to-cell communication and regulating cell growth. Some studies have suggested that its hormonally active form (Calcitriol) can reduce the progression of cancer by slowing the development of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue, hence speeding up the process of cancer cell death.
Factors That Can Lead To D-Deficiency
The skin’s ability to make vitamin D lessens as one ages. Mobility is also a factor as people who are rarely outside or homebound are unable to use sun exposure as a source. Moreover; dark-skinned people are less able to make the vitamin compared to fair-skinned people
D-deficiency in children can cause rickets, a disease triggered by bone softening and impaired mineralization and characterized by bow-leggedness. In adults, D- deficiency may result in osteoporosis or osteomalacia. Osteomalacia results in muscular weakness, poor bone density and often causes small fractures of the femur, spine and humerus. Osteoporosis is a common bone disease among older men and postmenopausal women. Being D-deficient may increase the risk of a host of chronic diseases as well as infection diseases. The much broader disease-fighting role played by the vitamin has made the widespread D-deficiencies a global concern.