Vitamin D for Healthy Bones
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin has gained a lot more attention amongst fitness and wellness seekers. As more people suffer from milk allergies or adhere to a strict vegan diet, the risk for developing vitamin D deficiency manifolds.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight, Apart from which it is also present naturally in a few foods such as fish, fish liver oils, soy milk, egg yolks and in fortified dairy and grain products.
Vitamin D is mostly present in food sources that come from the animal kingdom making it difficult for vegans to consume a sufficient amount of Vitamin D from their diet. To compensate and fulfill the recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin D, the need for Vitamin D supplementation emerges.
What makes Vitamin D extremely crucial is that it promotes strong bones by helping the body use calcium and phosphorus from the diet. When there is a deficiency of the sunshine vitamin over a period of time, it is most likely that the body experiences a state of fragility that is characterized by easy fractures, reduced bone density, fatigue, muscle loss, etc.
Types of Vitamin D
There are two main forms of Vitamin D in the diet:
Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol): Found in plant foods like mushroom.
Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol): Found in animal foods like salmon, egg yolk, cod, etc.
Most Common Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency:
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:
- Insufficient intake of recommended levels of the vitamin over a period of time: This is likely if you follow a strict vegan diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.
- Overweight: Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
- You have dark skin: The pigment melanin reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Limited exposure to sunlight: Because the body makes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure. Also, Applying skin screen inhibits Vitamin D production.
- Inability of kidneys to convert vitamin D to its active form: As people age, their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Poor absorption of vitamin D due to the altered digestive system: Certain medical problems, including Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, can affect the intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from the food one eats.
Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn't properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.
Key Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is required for various functions in the body, some of which are:
- To boost immune health
- Promote healthy bones
- Aid weight loss
- Fight against depression
- Maintains phosphorous levels in the body
What should be the dosage of Vitamin D?
The dosage of Vitamin D will differ from person to person as it depends on a variety of factors such as age, skin, color, sun exposure, current vitamin D levels and more. As per dietary recommendations, taking more than 4,000 IU may provide no extra benefit, hence, the best bet is to take 1,000 (25 mcg) to 4,000 IU (100 mcg) daily, for which the best practice is to consult a Nutritionist/ Health-care provider to get your dosage customized so as to avoid any possibility of