Are you missing out on the health benefits of maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D?
Discover why vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin and the important role it plays in your health…
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May 9th 2019 By
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is now known as a prohormone, comprising a group of seco-sterols with similar hormone-like functions. The most crucial role vitamin D plays in the body is to maintain the homeostasis of calcium, magnesium and phosphate, playing an essential role in the microelements’ metabolism. This fat-soluble vitamin has an important effect on bone and muscle health, aiding the immune system, the heart, kidneys and even cognitive function.
Vitamin D is also called the “sunlight vitamin” due to the unique way our body synthesises it. It can be obtained not only through diet but also by skin exposure to the sun, which converts cholesterol (found in the skin) into pre-vitamin D, which will then rapidly transform into vitamin D. From here, it will go through two enzymatic reactions so it can become active and perform its role within the body.
Several factors may decrease your capacity to synthesise vitamin D. These include; age, skin colour, obesity, geographic region and seasons. However, a minimum of 15 minutes sunlight exposure is required so the necessary amount of vitamin D can be produced and utilised by the body.
Vitamin D3 vs D2?
As mentioned above, there are many compounds in the vitamin D group. You can not find this microelement in many natural foods, so the dietary intake is met through fortified foods and supplements.
Plants and mushrooms are a rich source of vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol), whereas animal source foods (fatty fish, egg yolk, beef) are abundant in vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 is also produced in our skin (dermis and epidermis) by exposure to the sun.
These two elements are not the active form of the vitamin; they must first go through two enzymatic reactions to become biologically active. The first hydroxylation reaction occurs in the liver, where Cholecalciferol transforms into 25-hydroxycholecalciferol, the vitamin’s primary form of storage and circulation in our blood flow. Secondly, the compound moves to the kidneys where the second hydroxylation reaction takes place, resulting in 1,25- dihydroxycholecalciferol or calcitriol the active form of the vitamin.
Benefits of vitamin D?
Vitamin D acts like a hormone with its primary role elevating the calcium and phosphorus metabolism. It has a vital function in the microelements absorption in the small intestine.
See below the top benefits of Vitamin D
1. Bone and Muscle Health – Vitamin D impacts bone and muscle health (bones being the main calcium reservoirs of the body). In the presence of specific proteins, it enhances Parathyroid hormone’s (PTH) increasing calcium and phosphorus mobilisation. The global effect is the increase of plasmatic levels of these microelements.
2. Reduced risk of heart disease – vitamin d plays a protective role by increasing muscle strength, including the myocardial muscle, it has also been shown to prevent artery damage and help regulate blood pressure.
3. Boosts the immune system – due to a variety of factors your skin may not receive the required amount of sunlight (this is especially common in the UK). As a result, you may have low levels of vitamin D produced in your body lowering your immunity. Have you ever wondered why the common flu virus is more common during the winter months?
4. Improves your mood – studies have shown that vitamin D can help balance your mood acting as an antidepressant. It can also have a positive effect on weight loss and body fat levels by diminishing Leptin, which is the appetite hormone.
Vitamin D deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency eventually leads to bone demineralisation, which will affect you differently depending on your age. In children, a lack of vitamin D3 can result in Rickets a condition that can affect the development of bones making them soft and frail.
In adults, a deficiency in vitamin D and calcium can result in a condition called Osteomalacia which is also a softening of the bones meaning your skeletal structure can be prone to fractures.
- Harvey, Richard A., Ph. D. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. Philadelphia :Wolters Kluwer Health, 2011. Print.