Vitamin D is technically not a vitamin, as our body can produce it with the help of sunshine, but still it is classified as a vitamin (That is why it is called as ‘sunshine vitamin’). They are actually fat soluble secostreroids. Vitamin D is essential for good bone health and general wellbeing of elder people.
There are actually 5 types of vitamin D (D1, D2, D3, D4, D5), of these vitamins D3 is the most important and can be produced in our skin with the help of the UV rays from the sun. When not specified Vitamin D represents Vitamin D3 or D2. Vitamin D is stored in the liver and is transformed to other chemical forms to perform various biological activities.
Vitamin D – Sources
Vitamin D is not present in any vegetable source. The major source of this vitamin D for vegetarians is from milk. In case of vegans, they can consume UV-irradiated mushrooms and yeast. However if we have a healthy lifestyle and expose our skin to sunlight, we will be able to synthesize sufficient vitamin D with in our body. (The major non vegetarian sources are fishes and eggs).
Biological Functions of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is required by the body for several biological functions:
- Improves bone health and prevents osteomalacia
- Maintains hair-follicles and hence prevents hairfall
- Maintains good cardio-vascular health
- Prevents multiple sclerosis
- Boosts overall immunity
Vitamin D – Deficiency
This deficiency results in osteomalacia in case of adults and called as rickets in case of children. These conditions results in softening of the bones. This rarely occurs for people who are predominantly in a sunny country and spend time in sunshine. Sedentary lifestyle of the kids and lack of vitamin D in food might result in this deficiency. It also results in hair fall, poor cardio-vascular health and weak teeth. Low vitamin D levels also increases the risk of mortality among elder people.
Vitamin D – Requirements and supplements
The daily requirement is different for different countries, certain countries recommend people to consume supplements during winter. The most accepted requirement levels are
1–70 years of age: 15 μg/day and 71+ years of age: 20 μg/day.
Vitamin D overdose is toxic, and it is not advisable to have supplements if you spend good amount of time in sunshine and have dietary intake. There are so many ill effects, if we consume more vitamin d, like hypercalcimia, renal failure, fetus being affected in pregnant women and many other side effects. Many researches proves it beyond doubt that the skin has the ability to produce sufficient vitamin D even if exposed to sunlight for small amount of time. Hence one should be careful in going for a vitamin D supplement. Read more about the risks involved using a supplement before opting for supplements.