Types and sources of vitamin D | 24 Mantra

Get acquainted with your nutrients Vitamin D


Get acquainted with your nutrients Vitamin D

Health and Nutrition

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is also known as the “sunshine vitamin” as our body is capable of producing vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. One of the most important functions of vitamin D in the body is that it is required to absorb calcium. Calcium is required by the body for strengthening bones and teeth and several other crucial functions.

Types of vitamin D

Vitamin D is different from other vitamins because it can be made in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D exists in two forms.

  1. Vitamin D2– found in sun-exposed mushrooms.
  2. Vitamin D3 – synthesized when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet B light from the sun. It is the most “natural” form.

Our skin does not make vitamin D2 and most fatty fish also contain vitamin D3. When the term vitamin D is used it means D2 or D3 or both.

Sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D can be provided to the body in three different ways

  1. It can be made by our skin when exposed to sunlight
  2. It can be supplied through the diet
  3. It can be provided by taking supplements

Through skin

Our skin can synthesize vitamin D when exposed to direct sunlight. People with lighter skin color that is those who are fairer need just about 10 minutes of direct sun exposure to make an adequate quantity of vitamin D. Whereas people with darker skin that is those having more melanin in their skin require more time in the sun to make the same amount of vitamin D.

With age the ability to synthesize vitamin D by the skin reduces. Exposure to the sun for long durations may lead to early aging of the skin and may also increase the risk of skin cancer.

Through diet  

Food sources of vitamin D include

  1. Fatty fish  such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
  2. Foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, breakfast cereals, fruit juices, bread, and others
  3. Egg yolks
  4. Organ meats such as liver
  5. Mushrooms that contain ergosterol which is a vitamin D precursor

Through supplements

People can take vitamin D in the form of supplements also.

How much vitamin D do we need?

The units used to measure vitamin D are micrograms (µg) and also International Units (IU). One microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D.

The recommended intakes of vitamin D is 600 IU for adults and for pregnant and lactating women it is 800 IU.

Vitamin D role in the body

Vitamin D performs several functions in the body

  1. Helps in maintaining calcium levels in the body
  2. Important for strong bones and teeth
  3. Necessary for normal cell development
  4. Stimulates immune system

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency occurs when there is reduced intake of vitamin D or when it is not absorbed properly. It is also seen in people who do not receive sufficient exposure to sunlight. Exposure to sun has become less which leads to dwindling of vitamin D synthesis by the skin. Even in India where there is ample sunlight, people hardly go into the direct sunlight and if they do, they are fully clothed or use sun screen. These prevent skin from being exposed to direct sunlight resulting in low vitamin D levels in the body.

Depending on the stage of life, vitamin d deficiency can lead to

  1. Rickets is the result of vitamin D deficiency in children. In this condition, bones are not properly formed because a mineral deposition is affected.
  2. Osteomalacia is the adult form of rickets.

There is research work that states low levels of vitamin D levels are linked to increased risk of falls, fractures, muscle pain, muscle weakness, cardiovascular risk, diabetes mellitus, polycystic ovary syndrome, infections, and autoimmune disorders.

Therefore, it is extremely important to take the recommended amounts of vitamin D for everyone. It may be through sunlight exposure, through diet or through supplementation.

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