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3 Vital Ways Vitamin D Can Potentially Benefit Your Health
Vitamin D, or the "Sunshine" Vitamin, can keep you hale and hearty. In this article, we explore all the ways Vitamin D makes for a long and strong life.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D is not just for your bones. It produces as a hormone by the body and can be absorbed as a nutrient from external sources like food and sunlight. Vitamin D is central to metabolism, maintaining organ and tissue health, and keeping inflammation and infections at bay.
Sunlight is the most effective source of Vitamin D. UVB (Ultraviolet B) rays release energy for a chemical reaction that breaks down the 7-dehydrocholesterol steroid found in the skin. This reaction produces pre-vitamin D2, which is further converted into Vitamin D3. But be cautious of excess exposure to UVB rays which can burn your skin and damage cells, leading to premature aging and cancer. Choose the right amount and type of sunscreen since too much or the wrong variety blocks out Vitamin D.
The older you get; Vitamin D levels drop. For babies, 400 international units (IU) is the recommended daily allowance, whereas, for people up to 70, it is 600 IU. Those aged 70 and above need more since their bones are brittle and could fracture easily.
Even though food and sunlight are the primary sources of this nutrient, they only account for 1/3rd of your daily needs on average, even with fortified foods. Vitamin D supplements help, but they shouldn't cross the 3000 IU limit for children up to ages 8-10 and 4000 IU for adults. Vitamin D toxicity can cause nausea, weight loss, anorexia, hypercalcemia, and kidney and digestive problems.
Health Benefits & Deficiency Outcomes
Before we wax eloquent about the advantages of Vitamin D, one should remember that only some of these impacts have been proven. In many studies, vitamin D is good for overall health and has been correlated to better outcomes. Still, there is no direct causal relationship except in the case of bone health.
Below are some possible contributions to well-being that Vitamin D can provide −
Strong Bones (and Muscles)
Vitamin D has been proven to increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the bones, which promotes bone mineralization. It also improves oral health to boot. Mineralization keeps your bones hard and strong at an optimum level. Too much or too little Vitamin D will either make the bone tissue too stiff or too soft.
Vitamin D deficiency makes bones weaker and prone to breakage and deformation. In children, this presents as rickets, where the legs are bent outwards and are brittle. The equivalent for adults is osteomalacia, in which the bones become soft. Over time, Vitamin D deficiency could contribute to osteoporosis, in which bone mineral density declines, leaving hollow spaces inside. The weakening of muscles, aches, numbness and spasms often accompanies a deterioration in bone health.
Several studies suggest that increased Vitamin D levels help to reduce the incidence, progression, or worsening of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), Type 1 diabetes, tuberculosis, IBS, and Hashimoto's disease, i.e., hyperthyroidism.
Vitamin D cannot prevent or cure these illnesses because they are genetic. But a steady supplement dose or regular sun exposure can strengthen the immune system to resist the body's attack against itself.
Studies indicate better outcomes for higher-level people, although more is needed. But Vitamin D can help in many ways. For example, some of the myalgia, i.e., muscle pain associated with MS, could stave off hyperparathyroidism (a result of calcium deficiency) that causes hormone fluctuations. Keeping hormone fluctuations in check, in turn, might help the system to keep diseases like diabetes and asthma at bay.
Vitamin D helps to lower inflammation in the body and fight against infections/viruses. Limited studies have shown that Vitamin D may help to reduce the severity of airborne illnesses and respiratory problems like COVID, influenza, and the flu.
Various studies have shown links between increased Vitamin D consumption and a correlated lower risk for lifestyle diseases like cancer and type 2 diabetes. It may also reduce the severity of morbidity symptoms and perhaps even marginally lower mortality, i.e., death rates. But the observation groups need to be more in number. In addition, for diseases like diabetes, Vitamin D consumption only helped if the existing blood serum levels were low and not if they were normal.
For other lifestyle concerns like cardiac arrest, stroke, depression, and obesity, there are no linkages to suggest any improvement. But some studies show a correlation between these diseases and low Vitamin D levels. i.e., people with depression or weight gain are found to have lower Vitamin D levels. Seasonal Affective Disorder also results from low serotonin levels due to lack of sunlight in the winter. The data suggest that with heart issues, Vitamin D could make the arteries more flexible and reduce hypertension, indirectly improving heart health and reducing the risk of stroke. But there is no evidence that higher Vitamin D prevents heart problems.
Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in two forms other than sunlight. Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol, is also called the pre-vitamin D and is produced predominantly in plants and fungi. The body produces vitamin D3, which is found in various animal-based foods.
You can incorporate the following foods in your diet which have high Vitamin D content −
Dairy products, e.g., cheese, yogurt, cow's milk
Fortified breakfast cereals and juices
Fish with fatty acids, e.g., salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna
Cod Liver Oil supplements
Vegan milk, e.g., almond, soy, or rice, can be fortified with Vitamin D for vegetarians.
A healthy dose of Vitamin D helps immensely. So go out, bask in the warm rays, and live a bright, nourished life!
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