Vitamin D is not really a vitamin despite its name. It is a hormone that our body produces only with the help of sunlight, and we get it from certain foods.
It is important for the whole body – from healthy teeth and bones to maintaining the immune system, to preventing allergies, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and some cancers.
Let’s take a closer look at vitamin d and why it is so important to us, and why experts mention it more and more often in today’s global pandemic.
What purpose does Vitamin D have?
The main function of vitamin D is to help the body absorb calcium. It is extremely important for healthy bones and teeth. Without enough vitamin D, bones become brittle, weak, and poorly formed. It is needed for the prevention of rickets in children and osteoporosis and osteomalacia in adults.
It also reduces the risk of caries from 36% to 49%. Studies show that vitamin D supplementation is much more beneficial for bones and teeth than calcium supplementation.
In addition to bones and teeth, vitamin D supports many organs in the body. It stops the accumulation of calcium in the bloodstream, heart, and kidneys, thus preventing a number of problems. Strengthens the brain, cardiovascular system, immune and nervous systems, respiratory organs.
Reduces the risk of bacterial and viral infections, colds. Lowers high blood pressure. Vitamin D also regulates insulin levels. People with vitamin D deficiency have higher insulin resistance and risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes, as well as weight gain. Improves metabolism.
Regular intake of vitamin D reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, as well as reduces the symptoms of the disease. Improves muscle and neural function in the elderly reduces the risk of arthritis.
Reduces the chance of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, dementia. Pregnant women with vitamin D deficiency have a higher risk of preeclampsia and premature birth. In children, high levels of vitamin D lead to greater growth in height. Improves semen quality and increases testosterone levels in men.
Vitamin D deficiency leads to atherosclerosis. Its deficiency is also associated with diseases such as dementia, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. People with long-term vitamin D deficiency have chronic fatigue, depression, and pain in the joints, tendons, and muscles.
Normal levels of vitamin D reduce the risk of respiratory diseases such as influenza, asthma, and tuberculosis. An association between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of allergic reactions has also been reported.
Children living near the equator are less likely to be admitted to hospitals with allergic reactions. Babies who start eating eggs earlier, between the ages of four and six months, are less likely to develop food allergies (such as gluten or lactose intolerance) than others.
Studies show that vitamin D reduces depression and various neuropsychiatric disorders. Helps to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Regular intake of vitamin D limits the manifestations of acne and has a good effect on the skin as a whole.
Using it on the skin in the form of a cream can help the symptoms of psoriasis. Vitamin D, especially when taken with calcium, can prevent or delay the development of some cancers, such as colon, liver, pancreas, prostate, ovary, or breast cancers. It is also used in non-melanoma skin cancer.
Prolonged vitamin D deficiency is a catalyst for these diseases.
How do we get Vitamin D?
The main part of vitamin D (90%) is obtained through sunlight. The remaining 10% comes from eating oily fish such as salmon, sturgeon, tuna and mackerel, egg yolks, liver, and mushrooms.
Some staple foods are fortified with vitamin D – such as fresh milk, orange juice, and margarine. If they are enriched, this is indicated on the package.
However, exposure to direct sunlight is directly related to the development of cancer and premature skin aging. Vitamin D is produced from harmful UV radiation, which we protect ourselves with sunscreen.
Many of us nowadays do not expose ourselves to direct sunlight enough to get the right levels of vitamin D, especially in winter. For those of us who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as for people with food intolerances, the option of getting vitamin D with their food is out of the question.
According to studies, about 70-80% of Europeans suffer from a lack of vitamin d, and its long-term deficiency leads to complications of many diseases.
Vitamin D is broken down quickly, so taking elevated levels of it does not compensate for the subsequent deficiency.
That is why a more successful way to get the necessary vitamin D is by taking additional nutritional supplements.
What are the optimal levels of Vitamin D?
To monitor your vitamin D levels, it’s a good idea to regularly have blood tests (at least once or twice a year).
The reference values of vitamin D are 0-100 nmol/l, and anything below 25 is an acute deficiency. About 60-70 nmol/l are optimal, with 40-60 nmol/l also acceptable.
The recommended daily intake values are:
- For children up to 1 year – 400-1000 IU per day
- For children from 1 to 18 years – 600-1000 IU per day
- For adults – 1500-2000 IU per day
The maximum values recommended for people with disabilities are:
- 4,000 IU daily for adults, including pregnant and lactating women;
- 3000 IU daily for children aged 4 to 8 years;
- 2500 IU daily for children aged 1 to 3 years;
- 1500 IU daily for infants aged 6-12 months;
- 1000 IU daily for infants aged 0 to 6 months.
What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency and overdose?
Blood tests are recommended every 6-12 months to monitor the levels of vitamin D and other important elements for your health.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include pain in bones, muscles, and joints, chronic fatigue, weakness when climbing stairs or getting up from a low chair or floor, general malaise.
People with a completely vegetarian/vegan diet or intolerance to foods rich in vitamin D are more prone to deficiency.
It is not possible to overdose on vitamin D naturally – through food or sunlight. The only way to overdo it is through supplements. Symptoms of vitamin C overdose include nausea, constipation, rapid heartbeat, bone calcification, hardening of blood vessels, kidneys, lung tissue, and heart.
According to a study, about 70-80% of Europeans suffer from a lack of vitamin D. This is due to modern lifestyle, work indoors or at home, diet. However, there are groups of people who are more prone to deficiency of the valuable element.
- The elderly population
- People with darker skin
- People living in big cities or more polluted areas
- Children between 1 and 4 years old
- People who do not go out often due to poor health, immobility, or working from home
- Pregnant and lactating women
- Babies fed breast milk
- People who use sunscreen or cover much of their skin outside
- People with fat-related diseases such as liver, gut, and kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, and Crohn’s disease
- People who are overweight or those who underwent gastric bypass surgery
For these people, it is recommended to increase their vitamin D intake. Consult your doctor about taking higher doses of vitamin D.
There has been news recently that taking vitamin D fights the coronavirus, but there is still no official information on the matter.
Vitamin D is an extremely important element for the body, but it does not replace a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fish, meat, and dairy products. Keep your immune system strong so you are not afraid of disease.
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