Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin”, is one of our body’s most important chemicals. It is not a vitamin but a precursor to a steroid hormone known as calcitriol. There are two vitamins known as ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3). The primary difference is that vitamin D2 is derived from plants and yeasts, while vitamin D3 is present in animals.
It is one of the few vitamins our body can produce endogenously when exposed to sunlight. However, mostly it comes from outside. External sources of vitamin D vary from some foods to dietary supplements. It is also one of the four fat-soluble vitamins solvable in organic solvents and transported like fats inside the body.
Vitamin D is inert and needs to activate for proper functioning. It has to undergo a series of hydroxylation processes before activation. It converts to calcidiol inside the liver during the first hydroxylation. Calcidiol then transforms into the active form known as calcitriol. This conversion happens in the kidney.
Vitamin D helps the body in the absorption and retention of calcium and phosphorous. This is important for the mineralization, remodeling, and growth of bones. Moreover, it also plays an essential role in controlling infection, reducing inflammation, and suppressing the growth of cancerous cells.
This article will discuss the top five ways this vitamin can improve your health.
The Top 5 Ways Vitamin D Improves Your Health:
Preventing Bone Diseases
Osteoporosis is a painful and destructive bone disease in which bones weaken and their density decreases. As a result, bones lose their strength and become vulnerable to fracture. Osteoporosis even affects the height, decreasing it by approximately two inches. Bones become too sensitive that even mild stress can result in fracture. It also damages gums and jawbones and can lead to tooth loss. The leading cause of Osteoporosis is hypocalcemia or calcium deficiency. Bones need a permanent supply of calcium to maintain their strength and posture. If calcium is not available in adequate quantity over a long period, bones become brittle, losing their hardiness and pose.
Another bone disease that results from hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia (phosphorous deficiency) is rickets. Rickets usually affects children with prolonged mineral deficiency. Their bones become soft and weak, growth is delayed, and muscles are worn out. Phosphorous deficiency also results in osteomalacia in adults with symptoms similar to rickets. The main reason for hypocalcemia and hypophosphatemia is vitamin D deficiency. Prolonged deficiency can lead to many diseases, as mentioned earlier.
Proper intake of vitamin D is vital for bone strength and posture. An optimum supply of vitamin D can reduce the risk of bone diseases both in children and adults.
Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death. According to WHO, about 16% of people died worldwide due to ischaemic heart diseases in 2019. This rate is the highest among all other diseases. The second highest was the heart stroke. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency may cause cardiovascular problems leading to heat stroke and death. It is believed that when vitamin D is low, the activity of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) surges. Increased activity of the renin-angiotensin system leads to high blood pressure. If the required amount of vitamin D is not supplied for an extended period, high blood pressure may cause cardiovascular diseases.
Another study shows the positive effect this vitamin has on vascular cell growth. Vitamin D plays an essential role in cell differentiation and proliferation. In this way, it improves the lining of blood vessels and reduces inflammation, and repairs the damaged vascular cells, thus decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis. Recent studies show a link between vitamin D deficiency and atherosclerosis.
Hence, vitamin D can play a vital role in improving heart health, regulating blood pressure, and protecting blood vessels.
Adult Onset Diabetes
The most common type of diabetes is adult-onset diabetes. In adult-onset diabetes, the body cannot regulate and use sugar in the usual way. Typically, it affects adults, but research has shown that it can begin in early childhood. There are two fundamental problems that the body has to face in adult-onset diabetes:
- The body is unable to produce the optimum amount of insulin
- Cells cannot take in enough sugar to use as a fuel
This results in low energy levels, tiredness, delayed healing, vision problems, and frequent urination. Recent studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is the leading cause of the onset of adult-onset diabetes, among others. Vitamin D is vital in regulating glucose metabolism in two ways.
There are vitamin D receptors present on pancreatic beta cells. Vitamin D regulates and increases insulin secretion through the pancreas using these receptors. Furthermore, it also plays an instrumental role in improving insulin sensitivity and decreasing insulin resistance.
The colon is the central part of the large intestine, while the rectum connects the colon with the anus. Sometimes cell division in either of these parts becomes out of control, leading to small cellular outgrowths known as polyps. If unchecked, some of these polyps may develop into cancer. This type of cancer is known as colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer comes third on the list of most common types of cancer and affects older adults typically.
The latest research shows a link between a high level and a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. It is established that people with higher levels in their bodies are less likely to get colorectal cancer.
It is not clear how exactly vitamin D protects from colorectal cancer. According to some researchers, it may help regulate genes that control cell differentiation, growth, and survival. Any of these functions can cause cancer if not appropriately maintained. Moreover, it promotes programmed cell death to protect the colon from polyps formation.
The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is a progressive neurologic disorder. It begins with a mild memory loss and damages parts of the brain related to language, memory, and thought. Over time it affects the ability of a person to respond to the environment and communication skills. The person ill with Alzheimer’s finds it difficult to carry out the most straightforward task.
According to research, people with extreme deficiency of it are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with an average amount of vitamin D. According to researchers, it plays a vital role in regulating neuroprotection, neuroplasticity, neurotransmission, and neurotrophy. Hence, a low level of vitamin D can affect these processes, leading to brain disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is believed that an increased level of vitamin D helps improve the brain’s cognitive function in patients ill with Alzheimer’s, reducing the deteriorative symptoms resulting from the disease.
Sources of Vitamin D
Most of these vitamins produce endogenously by the body when expose to sunlight.
How Does Our Body Make Vitamin D?
Our skin contains a chemical known as 7-dehydrocholesterol. This chemical is a steroid and precursor to vitamin D. When it comes into contact with sunlight, it converts into pre-D isomers. After a few steps, this pre-D isomer is converted into D3 and then transported to the liver, where it is changed into calcidiol. Calcidiol converts into the active form of vitamin D known as calcitriol.
Dietary Sources of Vitamin D
Although our body can synthesize it endogenously, dietary sources of vitamin D are also important. This is because almost 50% of the world population cannot get enough exposure to sunlight. There are limited foods that are rich in this vitamin. Among these sources, fatty fish like tuna and salmon are the best sources of vitamin D. Other sources might include mushrooms, egg yolk, fortified foods, beef liver, yogurt, orange juices, etc.
Salmon, the fish rich in fats, is probably the best source of vitamin D. However, there is a big difference in the amount of vitamin D present in wild salmon and farmed salmon. According to research, 100 grams of serving wild salmon contains about 988 IU of vitamin D. On the other hand, the same amount of farmed Atlantic salmon contains 526 IU of vitamin D.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is widely used to cure vitamin D deficiency in children worldwide. One hundred grams of cod liver oil contains about 10,000 IU of vitamin D. However, it is usually used as a supplement, not food.
Canned tuna is another best source of vitamin D. It contains 268 IU of vitamin D per 100 grams.
Although not the best source, egg yolk serves as an instant supply of vitamin D. One egg yolk contains about 18 IU of vitamin D.
Mushroom consider the only plant source of vitamin D. It produces vitamin D on exposure to sunlight, just like us. However, it only contains vitamin D2, which is not as good as vitamin D3.
Fortified foods like oatmeal, yogurt, cheese, cow’s milk, and cereals are also good sources of vitamin D.
How can HealthCodes DNA’s Nutrition Panel Help You?
Genetics also plays a vital role in improving your vitamin D level. A gene known as VDR encodes vitamin D receptors that help absorb and retain minerals in the intestine. Your genetic makeup is vital in determining your specific needs for Vitamin D and all the other nutrients.
Your body’s requirements for vitamin D varies based on your genetics. Therefore, it is necessary to determine vitamin D metabolism based on genetic makeup to optimize your vitamin D level. The Nutrition Panel tests for your genetic vitamin D metabolism. HealthCodes DNA’s Nutrition Panel allows you to discover your genetic vitamin D metabolism. After getting our Nutrition Panel Test, you will be able to learn about your body’s daily need for this essential vitamin. In this way, you can optimize your vitamin level and enjoy a healthy life with our end-to-end support.