Vitamin D - Do you get enough?
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. Our skin produces it when we expose it to sunshine. It is essential for optimal health and our lack of sunshine exposure in the UK winters means that 1 in 5 of us are deficient in this amazing vitamin.
The following article discusses what exactly Vitamin D does for our bodies as well as how much we should take, where to get it from in our diet and what could happen if we have too much!
We should get most of our Vitamin D from the sun. Ultraviolet B radiation permeates through the skin and hits cholesterol in the cells. This is provides the energy for Vitamin D synthesis.
Vitamin D has many roles in the body and is an essential vitamin for optimal health.
Functions of Vitamin D
Absorption of Calcium - Calcium is extremely important for developing healthy, strong bones. The principle function of Vit. D in this instance is to form calcitriol which is a hormone responsible for calcium absorption from the diet. A lack of Vit. D leads to insufficient absorption of calcium which can lead to health problems such as osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children. These occur as the body steals calcium from the skeleton weakening existing bone.
Strengthening Muscles - A byproduct of Vit. D breakdown enters muscle cells and affects the nucleus. It enhances the cell’s contraction ability which is essential for building its strength and response to outside forces.
Anti-Inflammatory properties - Studies have shown a correlation between vitamin D and the production of inflammatory proteins. It is thought that Vitamin D suppresses the production of inflammatory proteins in healthy blood samples. It is thought that possibly taking vitamin D may be a preventative measure against inflammatory diseases from taking hold however in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis little effect was made on inflammatory markers of those already experiencing the disease. More research is needed on this subject.
Heart Health - Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D has been correlated with high blood pressure. An increase blood pressure causes the arteries of the heart to harden which can increase the risk of heart attacks. Although there may be other factors at play here (obesity and other disease) increasing our vitamin D levels may play a role in improving heart health.
Weight Loss - talking of obesity, vitamin D may help you to reduce your weight. this is because it has an effect on the satiety hormone Leptin. leptin tells us when we are full and to therefore stop eating by reducing our appetite. Low levels of Vitamin D interfere with the effectiveness of leptin. When Vitamin D levels are restored back to healthy levels leptin actions maybe restored allowing us to feel full more easily.
Low levels of vitamin D have also been linked to obesity. This could be due to a number of factors. There may be less skin exposure to the sun or poor dietary choices. It has also been found that levels of vitamin D need to correlate to body size. The bigger you are the more Vitamin D you need in order for all your cells to function adequately. The good news is that as we lose weight the overall levels of Vitamin D in our bodies stays the same - to technically they will rise in relation to body mass!
Neurological Issues - Vitamin D has also been linked to neurological conditions such as MS and Alzheimer’s. MS researchers became interested in the effect of Vit D on MS suffers as the incidence of MS is greater in countries further away from the equator. They found people with low levels of vitamin D are more likely to develop MS. Research is still limited but establishing if Vitamin D is an effective disease modifying therapy is one of the top priorities.
Seniors with low levels of vitamin D are at twice the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is due to it neuroprotective roles such as helping to get rid of beta-amyloid, an abnormal protein that is believed to be a major cause of Alzheimer’s.
Psoriasis - Psoriasis is an autoimmune response that causes increased skin cell production leaving scaly flaky patches of skin that can occur all over the body. Vitamin D has been found to strengthen the immune system which could help treat the condition internally.
Mood - Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with depression. In a trial involving those with low levels of Vitamin D and depression, increasing levels of vitamin D was shown to have comparable effects of lifting mood as some anti-depressants. It is not completely clear how vitamin D effects the brain but it is full of vitamin D receptors which enable us to carry out various bodily functions. It is thought that vitamin D could affect our brain chemicals including serotonin which is a key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness.
Where Can We Get Vitamin D from in Our Diet?
Dietary sources of Vitamin D are limited especially for vegetarians and vegans however many foods are ow fortified with Vitamin D. These fortified foods include cereals, orange juice and some milk. Other sources include:
Herring and Sardines
Cod Liver Oil
The best way to get extra vitamin D is to take a supplement. It is also thought that taking it as a spray instead of tablet form is more beneficial. Dlux Vitamin D Oral Spray has some very good reviews and is available on amazon.
How Much Should We Take?
The daily recommended Vitamin D intake is 400-1000 IU (international units) per day in adults and 400 IU in children unless advised otherwise. The highest safest level to take is 4000 IU a day which is usually reserved for those with medical problems. As with all supplementation it is advisable to discuss it with your GP first.
Can I Take Too much Vitamin D?
Yes! High levels of Vitamin D have been linked to high levels of calcium in the blood which can be related to kidney dysfunction - another reason that its best to check with your GP before supplementing Vitamin D.