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What Does Vitamin D Do To The Human Body

Advice For Adults And Children Over 4 Years Old

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During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.

But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.

Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can make all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet.

You may choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.

Too Much Vitamin D Can Be Harmful

Lastly, it is worth noting that excessive vitamin D levels can cause harm:

Serum vitamin D levels over 150 ng/ml are a sign of vitamin D toxicity. Vitamin D toxicity, otherwise known as hypervitaminosis D, can result in dehydration, fatigue, muscle weakness, vomiting, and calcification of tissues .

Vitamin D supplements are the most common cause of vitamin D toxicity .

For this reason, it is often recommended that individuals taking vitamin D supplements work with their doctor to ensure vitamin D levels in the healthy range.

Excessive sun exposure is not a concern for vitamin D toxicity due to a feedback loop which prevents the overproduction of vitamin D in the skin .

Vitamin D And Your Health: Breaking Old Rules Raising New Hopes

Vitamin D was discovered in 1920, culminating the long search for a way to cure rickets, a painful childhood bone disease. Within a decade, the fortification of foods with vitamin D was under way, and rickets became rare in the United States. But solving the problem of rickets was only the beginning of research into vitamin D. Research results suggest that vitamin D may have a role in other aspects of human health.

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Vitamin D Can Help Treat Hypertension

According to a 2019 review published in the journal Current Protein & Peptide Science suggests that vitamin D may play a role in treatment of high blood pressureone of the markers of cardiovascular diseasesays Newgent. According to authors of the review, even short-term vitamin D deficiency may directly raise BP and promote target organ damage. The researchers went on to add that, “due to the high correlation between vitamin D and hypertension, vitamin D supplementation therapy may be a new insight in the treatment of hypertension.”

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Can You Ever Have Too Much Vitamin D

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Yes. You can get too much vitamin D if you overdo the supplements. Interestingly, you cannot get too much vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D toxicity is, thankfully, quite rare but can lead to hypercalcemia and together the symptoms can include:

Do not take higher-than-recommended doses of vitamin D without first discussing it with your doctor. However, your doctor might recommend higher doses of vitamin D if he or she is checking your blood levels and adjusting your dose accordingly. Also, be cautious about getting large doses of vitamin A along with the D in some fish oils. Vitamin A can also reach toxic levels and can cause serious problems.

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How Much Vitamin D Do We Need

The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine produced the recommended dietary allowances for vitamin D. These recommended intake levels vary depending upon age.

In the following table, we can see the recommended vitamin D intake levels for different age groups

Vitamin D: Recommended Dietary Allowances by Age Group

Age Group
70 + 20 mcg

As shown, the recommendations are the same for anyone over the age of one and under the age of 70.

These recommended values remain the same during pregnancy and for breastfeeding mothers.

Key Point:

Improve Symptoms Of Seasonal Affective Disorder

While vitamin Ds potential role in helping prevent or manage clinical depression is still unclear because of limited research, researchers believe that a person’s vitamin D level may indeed play a role in the risk of seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with seasonal affective disorder appear to produce less vitamin D, which may affect the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

Serotonin is the same chemical that your brain pumps out when you go on a long run, eat a piece of chocolate, or hold the hand of the person you love. Its a feel-good hormone. So when the serotonin level is thrown off you may feel blue or be at a greater risk for mood disorders, notes an article published in June 2015 in World Psychiatry.

Foroutan points out that healthcare providers may prescribe vitamin D supplements to help treat seasonal affective disorder.

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If You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin D

  • Your bones can become weak and can break
  • Children can get “rickets,” a disease that prevents their bones from growing properly, delays their growth, and causes problems with their immune system
  • Adults can develop “osteomalacia,” a disease that weakens the bones and makes them hurt, and also causes fractures
  • Older adults can get osteoporosis, which doesn’t cause pain, but makes the bones thin and easy to fracture

The best way to know if you are getting enough vitamin D is to have a specific blood test. Otherwise, you may not know that you’re not getting enough vitamin D until you start having symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency. The vitamin D test is very expensive, so it’s not routinely done.

The Benefits Of Vitamin D

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Like vitamin C, youll find vitamin D is essential to sustaining overall health. Beyond keeping your bones strong, this vitamin plays a critical role in everything from fighting depression, boosting immunity, increasing energy, and much more.

Heres a look at what vitamin D3 can do:

  • Helps the immune system – The immune system requires adequate levels of vitamin D to keep viruses and bacteria away. Research indicates the winter months spent indoors and high altitudes are risk factors for low vitamin D levels, so winter is a prime time to supplement vitamin D.
  • Keeps bones strong – Vitamin D can stimulate cells inside the bones to remove calcium if your diet isnt cutting it.It aids calcium absorption which prevents serious health concerns like osteoporosis or osteomalacia. If your vitamin D is too low, it can cause a variety of bone issues, making it an important vitamin for bone health.
  • Lowers risk of high blood pressure – Vitamin D is known to limit production of the hormone renin, which is thought to increase blood pressure. A Boston University study found individuals with high blood pressure who increased vitamin D levels over 100% were able to normalize their high blood pressure.
  • Increases energy – A study in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences found individuals with low vitamin D levels were able to improve their fatigue symptoms by normalizing their vitamin D intake. If youre tired often, considering getting your vitamin D levels checked.

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How To Get Vitamin D

You can make your vitamin D the old-fashioned way, by exposing your skin to UVB radiation in sunlight. It doesn’t take much, but people living north of the 37-degree-latitude line roughly the imaginary line between Philadelphia and San Francisco can’t get enough UVB in winter to do the trick. And many others will find it all too easy to overdose on UVB, increasing their risk of malignant melanomas and other skin cancers, as well as wrinkles and premature skin aging. All in all, most doctors recommend avoiding sunlight and getting vitamin D by mouth.

Diet can help, but it’s very hard to approach the new goals with food alone. Fish and shellfish provide natural vitamin D , but you’ll have to eat about 5 ounces of salmon, 7 ounces of halibut, 30 ounces of cod, or nearly two 8-ounce cans of tuna to get just 400 IU. An egg yolk will provide about 20 IU, but since it also contains nearly a day’s quota of cholesterol, you can’t very well use eggs to fill your tank with D. Other foods have even less D, which is why manufacturers fortify milk, some yogurt, some orange juice, and many cereals with vitamin D. In general, a serving will provide about 100 IU that means drinking a quart of fortified milk to get 400 IU.

The Role Of Vitamin D3

Another surprising thing about vitamin D3? Its not actually a vitamin, but a pro-hormone. Its considered a pro-hormone because the body is able to produce it on its own by absorbing sunlight on the skin.

Other vitamins and nutrients are unable to be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained via diet and supplements. The body needs to store a healthy amount of vitamin D in order absorb phosphorous and be able to maintain normal levels of calcium. In fact, vitamin D is essential to many functions in the body:

  • Vitamin D is necessary for the maintenance of strong bones and healthy teeth.
  • Keeping a healthy store of vitamin D gives added protection to such diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.
  • Helps with diabetes management and maintaining healthy insulin levels.
  • Vitamin D offers immune support as well as protection to the nervous system and the brain.
  • Vitamin D is essential to the health of the lungs and cardiovascular system.
  • Helps inhibit the development of cancer.

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Vitamin D Strengthens Your Bones

Vitamin D is famous for its bone-building and strengthening powers. vitamin D promotes absorption of calcium in your gut, which ultimately allows for normal mineralization of your bones,Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook, tells Health. Basically, the calcium that benefits your bones wouldn’t be able to do its job without vitamin D. You need vitamin D for bone growthand to prevent bones from becoming brittle. When teamed with calcium, it can help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that signifies that the density and quality of bone are reduced, she adds.

Help Protect Against Heart Disease And Stroke

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Is vitamin D heart-healthy? A prior review of 19 studies linked adequate vitamin D to a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and heart failure. Yet the VITAL study, a large, randomized clinical trial study involving more than 25,000 participants and published in January 2019 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found no risk reduction for strokes, heart attacks or cardiovascular deaths in people who took 2,000 IU supplements daily.

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Breaking The Old Rules

Vitamin D is one of the 13 vitamins discovered in the early 20th century by doctors studying nutritional deficiency diseases. Ever since, scientists have defined vitamins as organic chemicals that must be obtained from dietary sources because they are not produced by the body’s tissues. Vitamins play a crucial role in our body’s metabolism, but only tiny amounts are needed to fill that role.

Although vitamin D is firmly enshrined as one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it is not technically a vitamin. True, it’s essential for health, and only minuscule amounts are required. But it breaks the other rules for vitamins because it’s produced in the human body, it’s absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks, and even when it’s obtained from foods, it must be transformed by the body before it can do any good.

As our habits change, most of us cannot rely on our bodies to produce vitamin D the old-fashioned way. Instead, we increasingly depend on artificially fortified foods and pills to provide this vital nutrient. Coming full circle in the modern world, this substance may actually come to fit the technical definition of a vitamin.

Exposure To Natural Sunlight

Sunlight is important for boosting vitamin D, but inappropriate sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer.

For safe exposure to sunlight, a person should spend a short time outdoors each day without sunscreen and with their forearms, hands, or lower legs exposed to the sun.

When to do this and for how long will depend on the time of year, geographical location, and other factors.

People should ask their doctor about safe ways to increase sunlight exposure, especially if they have fair skin or conditions that affect the skin, such as psoriasis.

How can you get more vitamin D from the sun? Get some tips here.

The best ways to prevent a vitamin D deficiency are to eat foods that are rich in this nutrient and to spend some time outside each day.

Some tips for avoiding a deficiency include:

Maintaining a healthy body weight: Cycling or walking can provide both exercise and exposure to sunlight.

Treating medical conditions: People with health conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients may find that treating the underlying condition helps boost their levels of certain nutrients, including vitamin D.

Being proactive about preventive health: People with a family history of osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiency may wish to consider speaking to their doctor about screening.

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What Does Sunlight Have To Do With Getting Enough Vitamin D

There are health benefits of sunlight. Vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to sunshine, or rather, the ultraviolet B radiation that the sun emits. The amount of vitamin D that your skin makes depends on such factors as:

  • The season: This factor depends a bit on where you live. In areas such as Cleveland, OH, the UV-B light does not reach the earth for six months out of the year due to the ozone layer and the zenith of the sun.
  • The time of day: The sun’s rays are most powerful between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • The amount of cloud cover and air pollution.
  • Where you live: Cities near the equator have higher ultraviolet light levels. It is the UV-B light in sunlight that causes your skin to make vitamin D.
  • The melanin content of your skin: Melanin is a brown-black pigment in the eyes, hair and skin. Melanin causes skin to tan. The darker your skin, the more sun exposure is needed in order to get sufficient vitamin D from the sun.

How Much Vitamin D Does My Child Need

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Vitamin D is measured in international units .

  • Babies younger than 1 year old need 400 IU of vitamin D a day. Baby formula has 400 IU per liter, so babies who drink at least 32 ounces of formula each day get enough. If your baby drinks only breast milk or gets less than 32 ounces of formula each day, ask your health care provider about giving your baby a vitamin D supplement.
  • Kids older than 1 year need 600 IU or more of vitamin D a day. Health care providers often want healthy kids to take 600 to 1,000 IU daily.

Some kids might need more vitamin D, such as those who:

  • have certain medical problems

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Vitamin D Deficiency

Severe lack of vitamin D causes rickets, which shows up in children as incorrect growth patterns, weakness in muscles, pain in bones and deformities in joints. This is very rare. However, children who are deficient in vitamin D can also have muscle weakness or sore and painful muscles.

Lack of vitamin D is not quite as obvious in adults. Signs and symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue.

Can You Have Too Much Vitamin D

Yes, it is possible to overdo vitamin D. What makes vitamin D different from other common vitamin supplements is that its a fat-soluble vitamin. When you ingest too much of a water-soluble vitamin, such as vitamin C, your body will eliminate excess via urine, says Tan. But the same cant be said for vitamin D.

Its very hard to have vitamin D toxicity from sun exposure or diet, but when people start taking supplementswhether through vitamin D drops or a prescriptionit can get to very high levels, says Tan. Too much vitamin D can cause calcium buildup and lead to kidney stones and other problems.

In general, a toxic dose of vitamin D is more than 4,000 IU a daya level that may actually hinder bone health rather than help it, according to a 2019 study in JAMA. In fact, vitamin D toxicity can result in hypercalcemia, a condition marked by an above-average amount of calcium in the blood, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, neuropsychiatric disturbances, pain, loss of appetite, dehydration, polyuria, excessive thirst and kidney stones.

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What Is Vitamin D3

Looking to get more of the sunshine vitamin benefits? Not getting enough sun? Not eating enough vitamin D-rich foods? Think you can stand to get a little bit more to support your health?

Very good! Vitamin D is essential to your overall health and making sure you get enough is paramount to your well-being. Before you get started, it is important to know that there are different types of vitamin D: vitamin D3 and vitamin D2.

Vitamin D3, also known by its other alias cholecalciferol, is vitamin D in its natural formthe kind produced in your body as it absorbs sunlight. However, recent studies are beginning to find that vitamin D2 may be as effective as vitamin D3.

Whichever form of vitamin D you choose to take, make sure you get enough so you can enjoy healthy teeth and bones while protecting yourself from disease.

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