Vitamin D: The Benefits of the Sunshine Vitamin


sunshine

There are five different types of Vitamin D (D1, D2, D3, D4 & D5), but D2 and D3 are the only types that our bodies can use. When something just says “vitamin D” it is generally referring to D2 or D3 (or a combination of the two).

Vitamin D is a prohormone, which is the precursor to a hormone. In its raw form (sun exposure, foods, supplements), Vitamin D is inert and has to go through a series of complex biochemical reactions before your body can use it. These reactions produce calcitriol, which is the form of Vitamin D that is used by your body (D2 and D3).

Vitamin D is one of the only vitamins that your body can produce by itself. What is the catalyst that gets your D production going? Good old-fashioned sunshine! It’s the ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB) that enables vitamin D production to occur in the skin.

Vitamin D is produced in equal amounts in both people with fairly pigmented and darkly pigmented skin after exposure to UVB radiation (sunlight) [1]. Sunlight is important for Vitamin D production, but the strength of sunlight and the intensity of UVB exposure can be affected by season, distance from the equator, and even personal habits. If you have a job that keeps you indoors during daylight hours, or you work nights, you don’t produce as much Vitamin D as someone who is outside for at least ten to fifteen minutes each day.

Vitamin D can be supplemented by eating the right foods. See my previous blogpost about foods containing Vitamin D.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in bone building by enabling calcium uptake by your body. It is also very important for healthy immune system function[2] and may help lower your risk of contracting colds [3]. Vitamin D also helps confer innate immunity which may protect your body from the influenza virus [4].

Vitamin D has had a positive effect on many different diseases, including multiple sclerosis [5], arthritis [6] and even cancer [7]. Children with higher vitamin D levels are less likely to suffer from asthma [8] and allergies than those who are vitamin D deficient. Mental agility might be maintained by adequate levels of the vitamin, especially in the elderly [9].

Because Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, it is important for bone mineralization (hardening), which keeps your bones strong and supple. A sufficient amount of Vitamin D helps prevent joint discomfort.

There is also evidence suggesting that Vitamin D may play an important role in weight loss [10], both in adults and in children. Some researchers are exploring whether vitamin D may act as a natural protector from low levels of radiation [11], such as the background radiation we receive from sunlight and other sources.

Symptoms and Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

There are no clearly defined causes of vitamin D deficiency, however the obvious culprits are not eating right and a lack of activity in general, but especially outdoor activity. Adults and children who have poor diets are especially at risk. Risk factors for being vitamin D deficient include race, gender, and lifestyle, including time spent watching TV, playing video games or sitting in front of the computer.

People at high risk of having Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome (VDDS) are often those who suffer from other disorders, such as autoimmune diseases, heart disease, osteoporosis, chronic pain and fatigue, and certain cancers. Symptoms for some of these disorders can be lessened by taking a Vitamin D supplement or eating more foods with vitamin d.

Other diseases and disorders, such as rickets, rheumatism, and osteoporosis (bone disease) can be exascerbated by a lack of vitamin D in the body [12]. Hypocalcemic tetany, a condition in which the body is low in calcium due to vitamin D deficiency, casues overactive neurological reflexes, spasms of the extremeties (hands and feet) and larynx, and muscle cramps. Calcitriol, the form of vitamin D your body uses, plays a key role in the maintenance of many organ systems.

- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

References:

  1. Bogh MK, Schmedes AV, Philipsen PA, Thieden E, Wulf HC. Vitamin D production after UVB exposure depends on baseline vitamin D and total cholesterol but not on skin pigmentation. J Invest Dermatol. 2010 Feb;130(2):546-53. doi: 10.1038/jid.2009.323. Epub 2009 Oct 8. Erratum in: J Invest Dermatol. 2010 Jun;130(6):1751.
  2. Rucević I, Barisić-Drusko V, Glavas-Obrovac L, Stefanić M. Vitamin D endocrine system and psoriasis vulgaris–review of the literature. Acta Dermatovenerol Croat. 2009;17(3):187-92. Review.
  3. Sue McGreevey. Risk Of Colds And Flu May Be Increased By Vitamin D Deficiency. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2009 February 24.
  4. Cannell JJ, Zasloff M, Garland CF, Scragg R, Giovannucci E. On the epidemiology of influenza. Virol J. 2008 Feb 25;5:29. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-5-29. Review.
  5. Kathleen Wets. Link Between Vitamin D And Reduction In Multiple Sclerosis Risk. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2009 May 28.
  6. n.p. High vitamin D intake linked to reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2004 January 12.
  7. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Study Suggests Vitamin D Screening And Appropriate Supplementation Indicated For All Cancer Patients. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2009 June 16.
  8. American Thoracic Society. Vitamin D Levels Linked To Asthma Severity. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2009 April 24.
  9. Journal Of Neurology Neurosurgery And Psychiatry. Vitamin D May Have Key Role In Helping Brain Work Well In Later Life. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2009 May 21.
  10. Aaron Lohr. Link Between Successful Weight Loss And Vitamin D Levels. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2009 June 13.
  11. Hayes, Daniel. Vitamin D As Radiation Protection. Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 2008 November 10.
  12. Rajakumar K. Vitamin D, cod-liver oil, sunlight, and rickets: a historical perspective. Pediatrics. 2003 Aug;112(2):e132-5.

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  • Guy

    I wasn’t aware of the fact that deficiency of Vitamin D can cause serious diseases like Lymphoma, atherosclerosis , kidney stones & histoplasmosis. Thanks for sharing this information with us all.

  • Nathan

    Vitamin D is very essential for bones and especially for growing kids. I was aware of this fact but you have mentioned much elaborated description of Vitamin D and the diseases caused by deficiency of it. I was not aware of all these diseases, which you have mentioned here.

  • Steve

    Can you please list resources that support your claims? I hate when I read an article full of claims but lacking the origin of those claims. Where did you find the side effects of taking too much D? I’ve never heard of them before nor have I heard them mentioned by some one else. The article is too shallow and is a horrible pitch for the supplement. Either explain fully each claim, (for side effects or deficiency) or support your claims with resources. It will give you better credibility. I had to research each one of your claims for side effects and I couldn’t find any links between D and your mentioned conditions.

  • Natalie

    ummmm.. I’m certainly no expert, but it looks like every “claim” is linked to a credited source, for both the benefits and the side effects of vitamin d. But, since you somehow missed the link to the side effects, i’ll just leave it right here.

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/929.html#Safety

    Maybe you should fully read and click on the links in the article before making shallow criticisms.. Just a thought. Cheers!

  • tracy reinert

    Ummmm… He said the exact opposite… Too much vitamin D can lead to these conditions.

  • John

    Steve?
    Where are your resources? It might give you better credibility.

  • ed

    ask any dietitian that is worth there weight in salt they will tell there is a whole lot more than the article says .

  • arshad

    sir i have a back pain nick to low and left sid hand and foot also pain

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