The protracted quest for a treatment for rickets, a debilitating bone disease that affects children, came to an end in 1920 with the discovery of vitamin D. In less than ten years, vitamin D fortification of food was underway, and rickets became uncommon in the US. But studying vitamin D wasn’t done until the rickets epidemic was resolved. According to research findings, vitamin D could be important for several facets of human health.
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breaching the established guidelines
Among the thirteen vitamins identified by physicians researching disorders associated with dietary deficiencies in the early 1900s is vitamin D. Since then, researchers have determined that vitamins are organic (i.e., carbon-containing) substances that cannot be created by bodily cells and must instead be received from diet. While vitamins are important for our body’s metabolism, they are only required in trace amounts.
Technically speaking, vitamin D is not a vitamin, despite being solidly established as one of the four fat-soluble vitamins. It’s true that very little quantities are needed for health purposes. However, it defies the other vitamin laws because it is generated by the body, isn’t found in any naturally occurring food except fish and egg yolks, and even when it is, the body needs to change it before it can do any good.
Most of us can no longer rely on our bodies to make vitamin D the conventional manner as our behaviors change. Rather, we are relying more and more on chemically enhanced meals and supplements to supply this essential mineral. Reversing course in the contemporary day, this material would potentially meet the formal criteria for a vitamin.
What is the vitamin D content?
Vitamin D is made up of several chemicals. The naturally occurring kind is created in the skin by 7-dehydrocholesterol, a type of cholesterol that is found everywhere. The secret is sunlight. It transforms the precursor into vitamin D3 using its ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. On the other hand, the majority of dietary supplements are made by exposing a plant sterol to light in order to produce vitamin D2. D2 and D3 are grouped together under the term vitamin D due to their very similar functions; nevertheless, none will operate unless the body performs its magic (see figure).
How the body produces vitamin D
A molecule in your skin is converted by the sun’s energy to vitamin D3, which is then transported to your liver and kidneys where it is converted to active vitamin D.
First, vitamin D travels to the liver, where it combines with additional oxygen and hydrogen atoms to form 25(OH)D, or 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is the substance that medical professionals often test for vitamin D deficiency diagnosis. Nevertheless, 25(OH)D cannot work until it reaches the kidney, despite the fact that it is employed for diagnosis. There, it picks up the last two oxygen and hydrogen atoms to create 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D. Scientists refer to this active form of the vitamin as 1,25(OH)2D, or calcitriol, although the term “vitamin D” is more than appropriate for the general public.
How it functions
The most well-known function of vitamin D is to promote intestinal calcium absorption, which in turn maintains strong bones. The body can only absorb 10% to 15% of calcium from food if it does not have enough vitamin D; however, when vitamin stores are adequate, the body can typically absorb 30% to 40% of calcium. In children, deficiency in vitamin D results in rickets, whereas in adults, it causes osteomalacia. While both of these bone illnesses are now uncommon in the US, osteoporosis, or “thin bone” disease, which causes fractures and spinal abnormalities, is becoming more common.
Low calcium deposits in the bone are caused by low vitamin D levels, which raises the risk of fractures. Vitamin D would still be necessary even if its only function was to protect bones. However, there’s growing evidence among academics that it could be capable of far more. In actuality, proteins called vitamin D receptors are found in a large number of bodily tissues. The receptors in the intestines bind to vitamin D, facilitating the effective absorption of calcium. However, a wide range of other organs, including the heart, blood vessels, muscles, endocrine glands, and the prostate, all have comparable receptors. Additionally, ongoing research indicates that when vitamin D connects to these receptors, positive things happen. The primary prerequisite is adequate vitamin D levels, which many Americans do not meet.
insufficiencies in vitamin D
When most men rolled up their sleeves to work in sunny fields, vitamin D deficits were unusual. However, it altered when jobs moved from farms to offices. Non-White populations are particularly vulnerable since pigmentation can limit vitamin D synthesis in the skin by nearly 90%. Deficiencies are particularly frequent in people with liver or renal problems that decrease the conversion of vitamin D to its active form, calcitriol (1,25(OH)2D), and intestinal disorders that restrict the absorption of fat. Furthermore, several drugs decrease the action or availability of vitamin D. Furthermore, growing older is associated with a higher risk of vitamin D insufficiency, even in healthy individuals.
While there are differences in criteria, most experts concur that 25(OH)D levels below 20 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) indicate a definite lack of vitamin D, while values between 20 and 30 ng/ml are considered borderline.
Numerous elements may come into play. First on the list is minimal exposure to sunshine. People who reside at latitudes above 37 degrees north or below 37 degrees south of the equator receive insufficient UVB radiation from the sun to produce all the vitamin D they require, with the exception of the brief summer months. The same holds true for those of us who avoid the sun and wear sunscreen to shield our skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation, as well as for those of us who spend the majority of our time indoors (see box below). It’s an example of an unintended benefit of prudent conduct, but vitamin pills may also provide you with strong bones and protection from the sun.
Similar to politicians, physicians also frequently have to make concessions. In the case of sunshine, most politicians guarantee clear skies, but most doctors end up being the dubious ones—or, at the very least, proponents of sunscreen.
The two types of radiant energy found in sunlight are ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA). UVB rays provide your skin the energy it needs to produce vitamin D, but they also have the potential to burn skin and cause more cell damage, which increases the risk of cancer. UVA radiation also has a role in early aging and skin damage.
Avoid the summer sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., to protect yourself. When you walk outside in the sun, try to wear a large-brimmed hat, a long-sleeve shirt and long pants that are tightly woven in a dark hue.
However, summer clothing is typically airy and skimpy in coverage. That is the role of sunscreen. Seek for a product with at least a 30 SPF. Seek for a sunscreen with “broad spectrum” protection that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Sunscreen should be applied widely, frequently, and early.
The startlingly high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the US can be explained by these several variables. While there are differences in criteria, most experts concur that 25(OH)D levels below 20 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) indicate a definite lack of vitamin D, while values between 20 and 30 ng/ml are considered borderline. By using comparable standards, American researchers have found impairments in up to 57% of hospitalized patients, 41% of non-hospitalized patients aged 49 to 83, and 42% of African American women aged 15 to 49. Furthermore, even young individuals who appear to be in good health sometimes have low vitamin D levels; in one research, almost 33% of participants were deficient in this vitamin.
Although statistics may never fully convey a picture, “D-ficiencies” in this instance add up to a host of health issues.
Broken bones and osteoporosis
Paradoxically, the most well-known benefit of vitamin D is related to skeletal health, but it has also grown to be the most contentious. While physicians concur that low levels of vitamin D raise the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, they differ on the advantages and ideal dosage of supplements.
Insufficient vitamin D prevents the intestines from effectively absorbing calcium. However, blood calcium levels cannot drop since they are essential for cardiac and neuromuscular function. Rather, it releases a large amount of parathyroid hormone, which releases calcium from bone. Your heart and nerves continue to function normally because your blood calcium levels stay regular. But the worst of it is on your bones: A decrease in bone calcium density makes bones brittle and more prone to breaking.
The majority of research indicates that insufficient vitamin D raises the possibility of hip and other non-spinal fractures as well as osteoporosis. However, opinions on how much supplements lower the risk of fractures vary widely. Some studies use vitamin D alone, others use D in combination with different doses of calcium; some give 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily, while others give up to 800 IU; some include only women, while others include both men and women; some include only frail, elderly, or institutionalized subjects, while others include physically active people.
How to obtain vitamin D
The traditional method of producing vitamin D involves exposing your skin to UVB rays from sunshine. While it doesn’t take much, wintertime UVB radiation is insufficient for residents north of the 37-degree latitude line, which approximately corresponds to the imaginary line between Philadelphia and San Francisco. And it will be all too simple for a great number of people to overexpose themselves to UVB rays, which will raise their risk of wrinkles, accelerated aging of the skin, and malignant melanomas, among other skin cancers. Overall, the majority of medical professionals advise taking vitamin D orally and avoiding sunshine (see box).
Although diets might be helpful, achieving the new goals just via food is exceedingly difficult. Natural vitamin D is found in fish and shellfish (oily fish are ideal), but to obtain 400 IU of vitamin D, you’ll need to eat almost 5 ounces of salmon, 7 ounces of halibut, 30 ounces of cod, or almost two 8-ounce cans of tuna. A single egg yolk will give you around 20 IU, but you can’t really use eggs to load up on vitamin D because they also contain almost a day’s worth of cholesterol. Since certain foods have even less vitamin D than others, milk, some yogurt, some orange juice, and many cereals are fortified with the vitamin by manufacturers. A serving typically contains 100 IU, thus to obtain 400 IU, one must drink a quart of fortified milk.
Most individuals can’t obtain enough vitamin D without supplementation. The major advantage of taking a daily multivitamin is that most offer 400 IU. To ensure you don’t receive too little or too much, always remember to carefully read the labels. Additionally, cod liver oil contains too much vitamin A to be used on a daily basis, despite being high in vitamin D.