It seems like common knowledge that vitamin D is important and that vitamin D can be obtained through direct sunlight, but what exactly are the health benefits of vitamin D?
What Kind of Vitamin D Is Important?
While there are several forms of vitamin D, the two most important are ergocalciferol, or D2, and cholecalciferol, or D3. The D2 form is synthesized by plants, while the D3 form is the one which is synthesized through our exposure to direct sunlight.
What Does Vitamin D Do?
Vitamin D helps to maintain the function of the nervous and aids in the absorption of calcium, by maintaining blood levels. It also helps to keep bones growing strong, dense and healthy. Vitamin D deficiencies are most often found in the elderly, obsess and those with limited sun exposure.
Vitamin D Deficiencies
Children can develop rickets, which will later lead to bone deformities and adults can develop osteomalacia, a weakening of the muscles and bones.
Lowered Risk of Type 1 Diabetes
Children who have a higher intake of vitamin D at an early age have a lowered risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes later in life.
Vitamin D can help to prevent osteoporosis later in life. In fact, a long term effect of a vitamin D deficiency within the body is the reduction of calcium absorption.
A deficiency in vitamin D is related to Pre-eclampsia, which occurs during pregnancy and produces protein in urine, high blood pressure and edema. Pre-eclampsia leads to pre-mature labor and is the main cause of death during pregnancy.
Helps Fight Cancer
While more clinical trials are needed, vitamin D has been shown to suppress cancer growth in cancers such as breast, colon and prostate.
Maintains Mental Health
There are a multitude of vitamin D receptors in the brain and so because of this, it is believed that vitamin D helps to maintain and achieve a healthy mind.
Reduces Chances of Alzheimer's
Less vitamin D is converted into its active form as we age, so studies have shown that vitamin D deficiencies can lead to a greater chance of depression and Alzheimer's in the elderly.
Where to Get Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is found not only in milk and dairy products, but also in fish and cod liver oil. In fact, cod liver oil happens to contain the largest source of vitamin D. Sunlight is also a very important factor in obtaining a sufficient amount of vitamin D. It is recommended that lighter skin individuals receive 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight daily. Darker individuals, on the other hand, should receive almost double the amount of sunlight, up to 25 to 30 minutes daily. Although there are some risks to increased sun exposure, such a limited amount is actually more beneficial than not.
Vitamin D supplements are also available, but should be taken in combination with calcium and magnesium supplements to maintain the proper balance of nutrients.