Vitamin D Benefits
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Vitamins are micronutrients that play a key role in regulating different functions of your body. They fulfill your nutritional requirements, support a healthy metabolism, make your body physically stronger, boost immunity, and prevent aging.
Vitamin D in particular helps you build stronger bones and muscles, promotes weight loss, fights off symptoms of depression, and has a protective effect against multiple diseases.
Let’s have a detailed look at the sources, benefits, and risk factors associated with vitamin D.
Vitamin D or sunshine vitamin is a fat-soluble vitamin produced naturally by your body in response to exposure to sunlight. 20-30 minutes of sunshine is enough to meet your daily requirement for vitamin D.
If you have less exposure to sunlight then you can meet your daily vitamin D requirements through different food sources.
The food sources that are rich in vitamin D include:
- Beef liver
- Cod liver oil
- White mushrooms
- Milk, cereals, and juices fortified with vitamin D
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is one of the important micronutrients needed by your body to function properly. It keeps your teeth and bones strong, strengthens your immune system, improves your brain function, and can also prevent certain diseases.
Below is a detailed description of the different benefits provided by vitamin D.
HEALTHIER AND STRONGER BONES AND TEETH
Calcium and phosphorus are two minerals required for the mineralization of bones. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium from the intestines and ensures adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus within the blood.
A sufficient amount of these minerals makes your teeth and bones healthier and stronger.
When you lack vitamin D in your body the absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal tract decreases. Low levels of calcium can cause softening of bones. This presents in children as rickets with a bowlegged appearance and in adults as osteomalacia.
The long-term deficiency of vitamin D can cause osteoporosis and makes your bones more vulnerable to fractures. Vitamin D deficiency can also manifest as osteoarthritis and early onset tooth loss.
Hence, it is recommended to include vitamin D in your diet to preserve the health of your bones and teeth.
STRENGTHENED IMMUNE SYSTEM
Vitamin D supports your immune system and can turn out to be helpful in the prevention of autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.
Vitamin D is thought to stimulate the production of T-cells and facilitates proper immune response against infectious agents.
By maintaining an active and healthy immune system vitamin D also helps to prevent autoimmune conditions like asthma, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.
IMPROVED BRAIN FUNCTIONS
Vitamin D is not only beneficial for your physical health but also has a significant impact on your mental health.
Vitamin D receptors are present throughout the brain and spinal cord and play an important role in the activation and deactivation of neurotransmitter synthesis. It is also involved in the growth and repair of neurons. Vitamin D may also reduce inflammation within the brain.
All these effects of vitamin D collectively improve the performance of the brain making you more focused and alert.
Additionally, the impact of vitamin D on the levels of serotonin can regulate your mood. Taking a sufficient amount of vitamin D may prevent seasonal affective disorder and can also improve symptoms of depression.
PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSS
Vitamin D can also help you in your weight loss journey. It can regulate the accumulation of belly fat and increase lean muscle mass.
When you have appropriate levels of vitamin D in your body then it prevents the formation of fat cells. Consequently, there is a reduction in the accumulation of fat around the waistline and you begin to lose weight. Vitamin D also down-regulates the stress hormone i.e. cortisol and prevents fat storage around your abdomen.
Vitamin D is also involved in the repairing of damaged tissues within the muscles. This helps you effectively build lean muscle mass while decreasing the overall body fat.
Another important function of vitamin D is to convert amino acid tryptophan into the neurotransmitter serotonin which then promotes the feeling of fullness after meals and also helps you minimize the feeling of uncontrollable hunger.
The association of vitamin D and testosterone in men also aids in weight loss.
So if you are overweight or obese and also have vitamin D deficiency then including vitamin D supplements in your daily routine might help you lose weight more easily and effectively.
PREVENTS RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease described as an inflammatory condition of joints that is often associated with low levels of vitamin D.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your own immune system reacts against the linings of joints considering them foreign antigens. As a result, joints are inflamed leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility.
Vitamin D ensures that your immune system is functioning properly and therefore not only minimize the risk of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis but can also reduce their severity.
REDUCES RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES
Vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by overcoming insulin resistance. The beta cells of the pancreas that are responsible for the secretion of insulin have alpha-hydroxylase enzyme and vitamin D receptors.
An adequate amount of vitamin D may play a role in glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. However, it is always advised to consult your doctor regarding the use of vitamin D supplements for diabetes.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is different for children and adults. Pregnant and lactating also have increased demand for vitamin D.
The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D according to age is given below:
- Children under one year: 10 mcg
- Children up to 18 years: 15 mcg
- Adults up to 70 years: 15 mcg
- Adults above 70 years: 20 mcg
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding women: 15mcg
You can get your required amount of vitamin D through sunlight exposure alone. However, if you live in an area where you have less exposure to sunlight or your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to spend at least 20-30 minutes in the sunshine then dietary sources are the way to go.
Some people find it difficult to include specific foods in their diet. In that case, you can get your vitamin D requirement fulfilled by supplementation. Nowadays sunlight lamps are also available which can help to boost vitamin D levels in your body.
The prolonged use of vitamin D in an excessive amount can lead to vitamin D toxicity which may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Dry mouth and increased thirst
- Abdominal pain and loss of appetite
- Kidney diseases
INTERACTIONS OF VITAMIN D WITH DIFFERENT MEDICINES
The important interactions of vitamin D with different therapeutic drugs are as follows:
VITAMIN D AND ANTICONVULSANTS
Anticonvulsant drugs are used to treat fits in different conditions. These drugs can intensify the breakdown of vitamin D leading to low levels of vitamin D in the blood. As a result, calcium absorption takes a dip.
Low levels of vitamin D and calcium will negatively impact the mineralization of bones and make them vulnerable to fractures.
VITAMIN D AND CALCIPOTRIENE
Calcipotriene is a medication used in the treatment of skin disease known as psoriasis. Taking this drug with vitamin D supplements can increase the calcium in the blood to an above-normal level and puts you at the risk of hypercalcemia and associated complications.
VITAMIN D AND STIMULANT LAXATIVES
Stimulant laxatives are the type of laxatives that are mainly used to treat constipation. They can also be used to empty the bowel before diagnostic and surgical procedures.
These drugs can impair vitamin D absorption from the gut and will ultimately affect the amount of calcium absorbed.
Decreased amount of vitamin D available to the body can lead to the appearance of different symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is a nutrient that is required in a little quantity but has a bigger impact on your overall mental and physical health. It is essential for bone health and immune system activity. It can also prevent autoimmune disorders, promote weight loss, and fights off symptoms of depression.
Considering the influence of vitamin D on your health it is recommended that you must fulfill your dietary requirement for vitamin D. If you are not able to get enough vitamin D through food sources then you may opt for vitamin D supplements that are easily available and safe to use.
It is advised to speak with your doctor before starting vitamin D supplements especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications for any underlying medical condition.