Vitamin D, also known as the vitamin of the sun, is a compound made out of Vitamins D1, D2, and D3. More than simply a vitamin, it is a steroid hormone with the capabilities to influence around 2000 genes in our organism.
It is one of the vitamins that ensure our overall stable health. In the beginning, it was found that Vitamin D is vital for the bones. Today, after years of research, it is known that Vitamin D is of key importance for the lungs, the heart, the brain, and the muscles.
What is Vitamin D? How does it work?
What does vitamin of the sun actually mean? It means that your best source of Vitamin D is sun exposure. Yes, it is present in certain foods and can be received through supplements, but nothing comes close to simply standing out under the sun.
This is why Vitamin D is often not considered an actual vitamin, as it can be synthesized by the body. Normally, such nutrients should be received through food as the body cannot create them
How does Vitamin D help? It regulates calcium and phosphate in the body. It stimulates bone growth as well as cell growth. Deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to bones becoming dangerously thin and brittle. Furthermore, it could lead to misshapen bones. This condition is called osteomalacia.
Among its other significant roles are cell proliferation and apoptosis, as well as reduced inflammation.
You can read an in-depth representation of the health benefits of Vitamin D below.
Science of Vitamin D
As mentioned above, Vitamin D is not so much a vitamin. It is actually part of a family of lipids that go under the name secosteroids. This raises another question – Is Vitamin D a steroid? The answer is no although it possesses a similar structure to that of steroids. The difference between them is that secosteroids have two B-ring carbon atoms that are not jointed.
In addition, there is growing evidence that Vitamin D causes the same chronic diseases with long-term supplement usage similar to that of steroids. However, further research is required before any assumptions can be made.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Maintaining a healthy bone structure is ensured as long as your body can regulate the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood. This is what Vitamin D does best. Without it, the large amounts of calcium will be excreted through the kidneys which could lead to severe diseases.
Receiving too much Vitamin D can be dangerous too but we will get more in-depth in the following sections.
Research has shown that receiving healthy amounts of Vitamin D daily will sufficiently decrease the risk of developing diabetes. As for people with type 2 diabetes, Vitamin D deficiency may cause negative changes in glucose tolerance and insulin secretion.
Low levels of Vitamin D have a connection with certain diseases in pregnant women such as bacterial vaginosis and gestational diabetes mellitus. Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to the need of cesarean section. Therefore, pregnant women need to have a stable Vitamin D status.
Excessive amounts of Vitamin D, however, can lead to the child being born to establish certain food allergies in its early years.
Last but not least, it was found that women with higher levels of Vitamin D have a higher chance of getting pregnant while at the same time have a decreased risk of miscarriage.
Vitamin D deficiency is connected to a long list of childhood diseases and allergic diseases that can mark a child’s entire life. Such diseases are eczema, asthma, and atopic dermatitis.
Research has shown that people who suffer from anxiety and depression are often Vitamin D deficient. It is known that this exact vitamin is deeply connected with our moods, therefore, can sufficiently improve those deep negative thoughts.
The abundance in calcium in Vitamin D can act as an appetite suppressor. According to various studies, supplements rich in Vitamin D can decrease the risks of heart diseases for overweight people and people who are trying to lose weight overall.
Vitamin D is connected to various cancer forms. It appears that high levels of Vitamin D can sufficiently decrease the chances of developing breast, liver, and bladder cancer. This was found out after excessive research on the health statuses of women who were diagnosed with cancer before they found out and during their treatments. What came out was a result that showed women with high levels of Vitamin D had a mortality rate that was 50% lower than those with Vitamin D deficiency.
Further research is required but there might be a tight connection between the nutrients we possess in our bodies and the chances of both developing cancer and outliving it.
Research has also proven that receiving high doses of Vitamin D will improve your blood vessel structure. More specifically, it will decrease the stiffness of certain blood vessels. Moreover, it will reduce the risks of heart diseases.
Signs Of Vitamin D Deficiency
More and more symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency get discussed every year but there is few research to support the majority of them. Such are hair loss, muscle pains, fatigue, and many others. Here are the most common that have at least some scientific background and can be accepted as true:
Constant Sicknesses or Infections
Low Vitamin D levels may be one of the main reasons why you constantly catch colds or the flu. It is one of the main nutrients fighting the viruses and bacteria in your body. This deficiency could also be behind some of the more serious illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
Bone health was our first listed benefit and logically bone pain or back pain can be caused by a deficiency in Vitamin D. It was found under controlled research that people with normal or high levels have a sufficiently decreased risk of any type of bone pain.
As already mentioned in the previous section, depression can be caused by low Vitamin D levels among other things. Some studies have found a connection between blood conditions and depression, and we already know that Vitamin D improves the cardiovascular system.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
The dosages of Vitamins are based on a certain unit called International Units (IUs) per day. It is an easy way of understanding how abundant each source is. With this said, how much IU per day do humans need to have a stable Vitamin D Status?
The following numbers are suggested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but are not yet entirely accepted as other organizations have their own suggestions.
- Infants (up to 12 months) – 400 IU
- Children (1-8 years old) – 600 IU
- Young adults and adults – 800 IU
- Pregnant women – 600 IU
Sources of Vitamin D
The amount of Vitamin D your body will absorb depends on a lot of factors like the season, what time of the day it is, air pollution, clouds, etc. Basically, people with white skin need no more than 20 minutes under the sun to get their daily dosage of Vitamin D. However, if your skin is darker, you might need a little longer. If you double that time, however, you are guaranteed to have a light sunburn.
Not so many foods contain high amounts of Vitamin D, therefore, if you live in a place on the planet where the sun is weak or there is almost no sun, you definitely need to think about getting some supplements. They are available everywhere and are extremely affordable. I know most of us do not like taking pills but think about your health.
As we said, few foods have low levels of Vitamin D and even fewer have high levels.
- Cod liver oil
- Beef liver
How Much Vitamin D is too much?
Vitamin D toxicity is possible but rarely applicable. For adults, you need to continuously receive over 10 000 IU per day to get any possible side effect. In the case of such toxicity, you can experience a variety of effects. Here are just a few of them:
- Heart rhythm issues
- Loss of appetite
Other than those, over-consumption of Vitamin D can lead to health-related diseases connected to over calcification.
Vitamin D is definitely one of the keys to a healthy immune system. It is of such high importance that its deficiency could lead to severe diseases that can change our life negatively.
It is, however, one of the Vitamins that have not been significantly researched which leaves us with mixed thoughts about the long-term effects of receiving it as a supplement. This does not change the fact that each one of us definitely needs to receive it in other ways like, for example, through sun exposure.