Fact File for Vitamin D

July 22, 2022

Vitamin D is also known as ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ is critical for healthy bones and overall health. It’s an important factor in making sure the muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that the body can fight infection.

The important functions of Vitamin D

  • Regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and facilitating normal immune system function
  • For the development of bones and teeth
  • It improves resistance to certain diseases

Benefits of Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D manages calcium in your blood, bones and gut and helps cells all over your body to communicate properly

  • Flights diseases
  • Reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis
  • Decreases the chance of developing heart disease
  • Helps to reduce the likelihood of developing the flu
  • Reduces Depression

Who is at risk of being Vitamin D deficient?

The body can make its Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. This makes Vitamin D unique among other vitamins as our body can’t make other vitamins. You need to get other vitamins from the foods we eat. For example, we get vitamin C from the fruits and vegetables we eat.

Though you can get Vitamin D from supplements and a very small amount comes from a few foods we eat but primarily our body gets Vitamin D from Sunlight.

People who are old or obese, have minimal sun exposure, or are primarily breastfed may be at a higher risk of vitamin D insufficiency. People with cystic fibrosis (mucus buildup in the lungs) or inflammatory bowel disease are also at risk for Vitamin D insufficiency.

Some of the reasons for Vitamin D deficiency are

  • Geographic Location

Our bodies produce more Vitamin D when they’re exposed to sunshine, so we’re more at risk for the deficiency rickets if we live in an area with little sunlight. We’re also at a higher risk if we work indoors during daylight hours. Many lifestyle and environmental factors can affect our ability to get sufficient amounts of Vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include

  • Being in an area with high pollution
  • Using sunscreen
  • Spending more time indoors
  • Living in a major city where buildings hide the sun

These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. That’s why it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.

"People are spending less time outside and, when they do go out, they often apply sunscreen, which effectively nullifies the body's capacity to synthesise vitamin D," said Kim Pfotenhauer, DO, assistant professor at Touro University and one of the study's researchers. "While we urge individuals to protect themselves against skin cancer, healthy, moderate levels of unprotected sun exposure can be highly beneficial in raising Vitamin D."

  • Diet

There is a higher risk of low Vitamin D

  • If the diet doesn’t include fish, eggs, or milk.
  • In case someone has trouble digesting milk or has an allergy to milk sugar (lactose)
  • Infants who are only fed breast milk can become deficient in vitamin D . Breast milk doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to prevent Rickets

  • Skin colour

Children of African, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern descent are at the highest risk of low Vitamin D as they have dark skin. Because dark skin does not respond as strongly to sunlight as does lighter skin, it generates less vitamin D.

Risks due to deficiency of Vitamin D

  • Rickets is a softening or weakening of the bones caused by vitamin D insufficiency in children.
  • In adults, vitamin D deficiency causes weak bones and muscles there is a risk of developing bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).
  • Besides the above Vitamin D may also protect, against high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.

Symptoms of deficiency

Adults who are vitamin D deficient may have the following symptoms:

  • weariness, aches and pains, and an overall sensation of being unwell
  • severe bone or muscle pain or weakness that may cause difficulty climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or cause you to walk with a waddling gait
  • stress fractures, especially in your legs, pelvis, and hips

A simple blood test can be used to identify vitamin D insufficiency. In case of deficiency, the doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of the bones or the bone density test

Natural sources of Vitamin D

Many foods contain vitamin D, including fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil. The sun also helps the body produce vitamin D on a regular basis, and as little as 10 minutes of exposure is considered to prevent insufficiency.

Few foods contain vitamin D naturally. Some foods are fortified. This indicates that vitamin D has been included. Foods that contain vitamin D include

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • egg yolk
  • shrimp
  • cod liver oil
  • milk (fortified)
  • cereal (fortified)
  • yoghurt (fortified)
  • orange juice (fortified)

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