Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for bone growth and bone health, among its other functions, but it is not something naturally produced by our bodies in significant quantity. There are few foods with significant amounts of Vitamin D in them to give us as much as our body needs and uses. Our body will produce some vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun and it absorbs the ultraviolet B radiation, which is why it gets the nickname of "sunshine vitamin", but still not enough in quantity. So we generally need to rely on supplements to get enough vitamin D.
Here Comes the Sun(screen)
That’s right, you can sit, lay, work, or play in the sun, and in so doing you are enriching your body with vitamin D. Easy pickings, right? Sure, except for one caveat, especially if you are fair-skinned: you don’t want to spend too much unprotected (without sunscreen or a physical block to the sun like clothing or a hat) time in the sun, or you risk sunburn and ultimately, skin damage, some of which might not show up until years later.
Although vitamin D (a fat-soluble vitamin and pro-hormone, per gardenoflife.com) is available from some foods and drinks, such as fish liver oils, mushrooms, eggs, raw milk, orange juice, yogurt, cheese, bread, soy drinks, breakfast cereals, margarine, and fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and herring, food generally is not an abundant source of it, and as abundant as the sun’s rays are the closer you get to the equator, overexposure is a problem.
Note, too, that vitamin D comes in two forms – vitamin D2, which is sourced from plants and is probably the preferred choice for vegetarians, and vitamin D3 – the preferred form for non-vegetarians, per gardenoflife.com, which is manufactured when sunlight reacts with the cholesterol embedded in our skin’s cells. Even then, D3 is biologically inactive, for the time being, until it goes through a two-step process of activation that involves, first, the liver and then the kidneys.
Plus, if you use sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of 8 (SPF 8) or higher, 95 percent of the UVB light needed to synthesize vitamin D gets blocked by the sunscreen, per takevitaminD.com. That’s why supplementation of vitamin D is so important, with such supplements readily available over the counter. In fact, per everydayhealth.com, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends avoiding sun exposure or tanning salons as a source of vitamin D.
“Dietary supplements of vitamin D are safe and effective,” says American Dietetic Association spokesperson and sports dietitian Roberta Anding, quoted at everydayhealth.com. “They can be useful since food sources are limited, and it can be problematic if you don’t like the few food sources there are.”
Deficiency in Vitamin D Leads to Health Problems
Nearly 50 percent of the world’s population has a vitamin D deficiency, per National Institutes of Health (NIH). What NIH describes as a “pandemic” relative to vitamin D insufficiency can be attributed to factors such as lifestyle and environmental factors linked to reduced exposure to sunlight – which is true even in America. An imaginary line drawn from Northern California to Boston depicts that anyone residing north of such a virtual border is looking at four to six months out of the year of insufficient ultraviolet energy for vitamin D synthesis, per gardenoflife.com.
A vitamin D deficiency can be a precursor to a number of health-related issues, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, falls and fractures, autoimmune diseases, influenza, type-2 diabetes, and depression, per NIH.
Vitamin D Benefits
OK, let’s end this blog on a high note. Following are vitamin D’s reported health benefits. Remember to keep plenty of vitamin D supplementation handy, and discuss with your physician as necessary:
- Bone growth and health. Vitamin D’s main role in this regard is helping our bodies to absorb the calcium that we ingest, with calcium a key component of the bones themselves; that includes our teeth. Vitamin D also helps maintain the ratio of calcium and phosphorus in our blood.
- Immune system. Recent research has shown that vitamin D helps to bolster our immunity that helps protect us from various diseases and other toxic agents. Numerous scientific publications have identified vitamin D as a key nutrient in preventing major disease, per gardenoflife.com.
- Cell growth. Vitamin D also regulates cell growth, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that the vitamin plays a part in up to 2,000 of our body’s genes, and its receptors are found in tissues and organs throughout the body, positively impacting 36 of our body’s organs, per gardenoflife.com.