Health Benefits and Sources of Vitamin D

 


Vitamin D is fat soluble vitamin found in food. It can also be synthesized from scratch in the body after exposure to the UV rays of the sun. This article describes the benefits and key features of this vitamin...





Calciferol, viosterol and ergosterol are other names given to this vitamin.  Calciferol is the most active form of the vitamin which is added to a balanced healthy diet to treat  deficiencies. The active form is made in the kidney. This fat soluble vitamin also functions as a hormone as it increases calcium absorption in the intestine.

Importance

The most important function is to maintain levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Maintaining calcium levels helps form strong bones. A deficiency causes rickets in children and osteoporosis and osteomalacia in adults which is characterized by brittle and fragile bones. It maintains a healthy immune system and also helps in cell grow and differentiation.

UV rays from the sun trigger Vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Factors that affect the synthesis on the skin are the seasons, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud, smog, and sunscreen usage. On a sunny day a 15 min exposure to the sunlight will provide enough to last for the entire day. After 10 to 15 minutes sunscreen should be applied so that it will not cause premature ageing of the skin and tanning. People having limited exposure to the sun should include good sources of vitamin D in their food.

Sources

Researchers have found out that fortified foods are among the most common as well as rich sourcees. Milk is definitely the richest source. Other good sources are:

  • sardines
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • cod liver oil
  • liver
  • beef

Deficiencies

Deficiencies occurs when the intake is below the recommended level, low exposure to sunlight, when the kidney cannot convert the vitamin D to its active form or when the vitamin is not absorbed in the digestive tract. It also depends whether the individual is lactose intolerant or has a milk allergy.

Infants fed with only breast milk receive insufficient amounts. A person older than 50 is recommended to take supplements as their skin is unable to synthesize it efficiently on exposure to the sun.

People in Asia and Africa skin have a reduced ability to produce vitamin D due to the higher melanin content in their skin. Persons suffering from diseases like liver disorder, malabsorption of vitamin D in the small intestine, cystic fibrosis and deficiency of the pancreatic enzymes are recommended to take vitamin supplements.

Post menopausal women should think about having supplements as the levels of the hormone estrogen which increases calcium absorption, fall after menopause. Vitamin D in high doses is toxic. It is recommended that a physician is consulted before taking any supplements. While taking vitamin D supplements mineral oil intake must be stopped as it interferes with the absorption process.

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