Many people only know the basics about vitamin D and that it comes from exposure to the sun. But vitamin D, and getting enough of it, is crucial for healthy bones, good heart health, a healthy immune system, reducing inflammation and the prevention of certain diseases.
Vitamin D, which is also known as calciferol, is a fat soluble vitamin (it can be stored for long periods of time in fat). Its most crucial function in the body is allowing the effective absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and to support a normal immune system.
Vitamin D can be found in a small group of foods such as fish and eggs and is also produced naturally inside your body when your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement.
Bone strength – Vitamin D is essential for promoting calcium absorption in the gut and is also needed for normal bone growth and bone remodelling.
Combats depression – Studies suggest that a lack of vitamin D can be linked to increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Vitamin D deficiency
There’s only one way to know for sure if you have a vitamin D deficiency and that’s by taking a blood test. However, there are many things that could contribute to you having lower than average levels of Vitamin D. If any of these apply to you, visit your local GP to have your vitamin D levels tested:
People who have darker skin: Melanin (the pigment that makes skin darker) acts as a natural sunscreen. Therefore dark skinned people may need almost ten times the amount of sun exposure to produce the amount of vitamin D a person with a lighter complexion would need.
Change in mood: Vitamin D has been linked to the amount of serotonin (mood and happiness hormone) your brain releases. Studies have shown that more exposure to sunlight increases serotonin levels, whereas little or no sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop. Therefore, people with a lower vitamin D content may be more prone to depression.
50 years or more: The older your body gets, the more difficult it will be to create vitamin D. Older people also tend to spend more time indoors which may also contribute to lower levels of vitamin D.
Very little to no contact with the sun: Whether you’re living in a city where there are very few chances of coming into contact with the sun, or if you always use sunscreen when you leave the house, having too little sun exposure can cause a vitamin D deficiency.
Kidneys cannot convert vitamin D: As we grow older, many people’s kidneys lose the ability to convert vitamin D into its active form which then increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Digestive tract cannot absorb vitamin D: Many diseases, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, may hinder the intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from digested food.
Foods high in vitamin D