Amongst the vitamins, one of the most versatile ones is vitamin D. Its benefits in the body traverse various systems and numerous organs, some working in coordination with another and others work independently. Vitamin D is one of those 27 essential nutrients that you cannot afford to have a deficiency of. Things go south really quick in case of a deficiency.
Vitamin D is also referred to as calciferol. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that is absorbed alongside fat-binding molecules in the small intestines. A little is however absorbed even in the absence of dietary fat but including healthy fat boosts the process. What is also stunning about vitamin D is that factors like aging and obesity which greatly reduce the absorption of other nutrients, do not seem to have a significant effect on Vitamin D absorption.
As a fat-soluble vitamin, it is stored within adipose tissue reserves with little being excreted via the kidney or being recycled back into general circulation. Vitamin D exists in two major forms in human bodies: Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3:
D2 versus D3
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is obtained from animal sources and is manufactured on exposure to sunlight and certain wavelengths of light. It is produced endogenously by sterols within the skin structure as a response to sunlight exposure. 5-15 minutes, 3 times a week is the suberythemal dose for getting adequate vitamin D3 from sunlight.
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is obtained from dietary plant sources. It is produced by plants and stored. While D3 is easy to get within a few minutes of basking in the sun, D2 is a great boost for colder periods and especially for people who get minimal exposure to sunlight. Vitaminfood meal replacement shakes contain Vitamin D2 which is 100% vegan.
The two, D2 and D3, differ only in the sidechain structure. They are equipotent and equally absorbed in the small intestines especially in smaller doses that are within the recommended daily intake. They perform similar physiological functions and are equally effective. Some research indicates that D2 is less toxic than D3 in large quantities but it is not conclusive.
Prohormone – vitamin D is not a vitamin-like the others are. Vitamins are usually not synthesized in the body as Vitamin D with the skin. Vitamin D is however a precursor to the formation of hormones within the body. This factor determines some of the key roles that it plays in the body.
The forms produced in the body are inert and some processing in the body has to occur vitamin D produced into metabolically useful forms. The vitamin D2 and D3 undergo 2-step hydroxylation. The first in the liver where it is converted to calcidiol, then a second step in the kidney. In the kidney, it is converted to calcitriol which is the form that is in greater amounts and in circulation.
The health benefits of vitamin D inclusion in your diet
The benefits of Vitamin D to the body are numerous and the ones below are just a couple conspicuous ones.
1. Bone health (teeth too)
Vitamin D is essential for the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorous in the body. Maintaining healthy amounts of vitamin D in the body regulates the amount of calcium that is absorbed in the gut. It also plays a role in the recycling of calcium ions in the kidney during renal regulation processes, which would have otherwise been lost.
Maintaining adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentration allows for normal bone mineralization. This ensures that bone growth and remodeling of osteoblasts and osteoclasts within the body proceeds optimally.
Calcium and phosphorous are major structural components of the bones and so a deficiency in any of these greatly affects bone health. It is to that effect that vitamin D helps prevent complications like osteomalacia (bone softening), osteoporosis (bone fragility), bone thinning, and brittle bones.
2. Prevents involuntary muscle contractions
This condition known as hypocalcemic tetany is a complication in which one loses voluntary control of some of the muscles especially skeletal muscles like arms, feet, thigh and back. Involuntary contractions then occur manifesting themselves as cramps and spasms. Vitamin D modulates muscular innervation and impacts neuromuscular health thus preventing such.
3. Reduce inflammation
Vitamin D is important in the modulation of the immune system. Inflammation is a means of the immune system reacting. Vitamin D regulates the production of inflammatory cytokines. It also tunes down the increase of pro-inflammatory cells.
Most chronic diseases caused by inflammation have also been associated to lower vitamin D statuses like atherosclerosis, asthma, fatty liver diseases and kidney diseases.
4. Regulate various metabolic activities.
Vitamin D is not the typical vitamin but it is a prohormone, a precursor to a hormone. This allows it to have an influence on a number of metabolic and physiologic activities including some of those listed below:
· Modulation of cell growth – it controls the rate of cell growth and proliferation processes such that the rate could reduce in case of a deficiency causing slower and stunted growth of some organs and structures.
· Immune function – Vitamin D as a prohormone affects the upper tract respiratory system and the natural defense mechanisms. This is also true because of the role it plays in supporting lung function.
· Glucose metabolism – vitamin D results in metabolites that regulate cell metabolism and also promote weight loss by boosting the rate of metabolism of fats and glucose. This also makes it useful in regulating the management of diabetic patients, it helps regulate insulin levels.
· Prevention and treatment of congestive heart disease, high blood pressure disorder and other cardiovascular diseases.
· Mood control – vitamin D is an established therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a form of depression. It has been proven to elevate the mood of people in depression or those developing similar symptoms.
· Regulates parathyroid hormone functions
5. Promotes healthy pregnancy and reduces the risk of developing preeclampsia and preterm birth.
Pregnancy complications and early infant complications have both been associated with low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is central to health organ formation and development and a deficiency in the mother cause complications to both her and the baby.
Vitamin D deficiency is a clinical syndrome often referred to as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults but is more common in children.
Some of the symptoms include:
· Bone pain
· Muscle weakness
· Muscle aches
· Regular sickness and infection
· Low mood
· Impaired wound healing
· Hair loss
In neonates, infants who have just been born, the deficiency manifests itself as metaphyseal lesions and very soft skull; the skull softening is referred to as craniotabes. It is so soft that the base of the skull at the occipital condyles feels like a softball. This is a very risky situation for the neonate and a hindrance to healthy development.
The effects of a D-ficiency include:
· Increased risk of a cardiovascular disease
· Cognitive impairment in older adults
· Asthma in kids that could progress to become very severe and life-threatening in case of an attack
· Increased risk of certain cancers: prostate, breast and colon cancers.
· Increased risk of developing neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis.
· Hypocalcemia, due to impaired calcium absorption in the body, leading to dysfunction of parathyroid glands.
Rickets in older infants results in delayed sitting and crawling. The joints that had not fully developed, fontanelles, may not seal up very smoothly or evenly. Cartilages at the end of the long bones enlarge. Walking becomes painful and other deformities like bowlegs and knock-knees develop. These show how much children need enough vitamin D.
Some of the factors that could lead to a deficiency include:
The decline in skin production due to aging, use of sunscreen and dark pigmentation. All these factors reduce the effectiveness of the skin in converting the light energy into Vitamin D3 and its capacity of sustaining the body’s needs.
Reduced exposure – this could be due to the weather changes during summer or excessive air pollution that reduces the rays getting to the skin. It could also be because of adapting a schedule that does not cater for sunlight exposure especially if working a 9-5 job in an indoor building.
Malabsorption – conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract like Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel syndromes can reduce the amount of nutrient ions being absorbed such that your body has a deficiency even if the diet had adequate amounts. Some complications of absorption could be caused by disadvantageous traits that are genetic and are hereditary.
Abnormal metabolism especially in the liver and kidney which converts Vitamin D into its various active forms.
Obesity could also cause the isolation of vitamin in the fat reserves such that it cannot be utilized by the body; it is stored in such a way that excess fat that is not metabolized binds it preventing its use.
This can result from the accumulation by repetitive intake of larger than normal quantities or from the intake of extremely large doses at once mostly from supplements. As a fat-soluble vitamin, it is rarely excreted in urine and little through the liver into the kidneys.
Hypervitaminosis D results in hypercalcemia characterized by calcification of soft tissues. This causes damage to tissues of the kidney, liver and cardiovascular systems.
Vitamin D is responsible for the upright structure you have by promoting healthy born development. It is essential for many other metabolic functions as well. Vitaminfood delivers enough vitamin D to keep you safely off a deficiency and well below hypervitaminosis D. Grab a Vitaminfood shake or a complete nutrition meal shake powder today and be secure about your health status.