Vitamin D is a nutrient that is present in very few foods. Fortunately, this vitamin is produced by the body with exposure to sunlight. So even when the amount of vitamin D gathered from diet is less than needed, the body can synthesize enough with exposure to UV rays from the sun. But why is it so important to have adequate amounts of this vitamin? This vitamin has many benefits including stronger bones, protection from diseases, and weight loss. More than billion people in the world have a vitamin D deficiency which is seen across different age groups. This deficiency of vitamin D may increase the risk of acquiring a number of chronic diseases including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and numerous infectious diseases.
This vitamin is critical in a number of functions in the body. It is essential for improving bone health. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium from the blood which is needed for strong bones. This is true for people of any age group and ethnicity. Lack of adequate amount of this vitamin may result in a condition called ‘Rickets’ or ‘bowed legs’. Vitamin D is also important in regulating cell growth, controlling the functioning of the immune system, and in reducing inflammation. Many studies have shown that this vitamin provides protection from diseases including osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer, and other autoimmune disorders. Moreover, this vitamin is also considered to be helpful in increasing muscle strength which in turn prevents falls and fractures.
Low levels or deficiency of vitamin D in the body is linked to an increased risk of the following conditions:
- Rickets and osteomalacia
- Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder
- Diabetes, both Type 1 and 2
- Different types of cancers, particularly colon cancer
- Heart disease
- Depression and other mental health conditions
- Other autoimmune disorders
Obese individuals, elderly people, naturally dark skinned people, and people who have limited sun exposure are at a high risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
Since vitamin D is present in very few foods, the best source of obtaining adequate amounts of this nutrient is from supplements and fortified foods. Dairy products and cereals are the best fortified foods available in market now. Many people will be able to meet the daily requirement of vitamin D through exposure to the sun. Certain drugs like laxatives, anti-seizure medications, and steroids are known to reduce the absorption of vitamin D. So if the cause of deficiency is a drug, your doctor might recommend changing medications or suggest the inclusion of supplements in the diet.