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Vitamin D: Do You Really Need it that Much?

vitamin D


Usually obscure from the limelight, vitamin D, tends  to be overlooked especially with the rise of superfoods and other “miracle ingredients” in the market. Finding its way back under the gentle kiss of warm sunlight, recent study revealed that vitamin D holds more promise in terms of health improvement, but we should also be mindful of how much we are getting.

As we shed a ray of sunshine over this matter, here are some recent facts and certain considerations that we need to know about vitamin D.

Why is it important?

Vitamin D is more commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin” because your skin produces it in response to sunlight. It plays significant functions like regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body which means healthy bones and teeth. It is also essential for immune function, bone building, cognitive function, cardiovascular support, blood sugar control and many more.

Beyond its reputation, scientifically speaking, vitamin D is more accurately a pro-hormone instead of a vitamin. The reason behind it is that the body is capable of producing vitamin D once the skin gets exposed to sunlight, while vitamins are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by the body. Hence it must be acquired through diet or supplements.

However, a more popular and easier way to obtain vitamin D is through sun exposure. Upon contact with our skin, the ultraviolet rays from sunlight triggers vitamin D synthesis, pretty much like human photosynthesis! Surprisingly, as much as the sun brings sweltering heat to some places, those countries that are situated in higher altitudes tend to get less sunlight.

According to recent findings,  up to 50% of adults and children around the world are vitamin D deficient and this can be attributed to where they are in the world. Aside from little sun exposure, other factors include low nutritional sources.

Should I be bulking up on it?

The amount of vitamin D a person needs depend largely on their age. However, the general average recommended daily dose for male and female adults, infants and children is 600 IU (International Units) – which is 200 IU higher from the previous recommendation. This translates to 10-15 minutes of uncovered sun exposure. In some cases doctors would prescribe high levels of vitamin D supplements with doses going as high as 1000 to 10000 IU per day or 50,000 IU per week. But this should be taken more responsibly because having too much in your system can result in a buildup of calcium in your system which can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, weakness, poor appetite and weight loss.

On a more serious page, the fact that vitamin D is fat soluble, so any excess will only pile up in the body. Consequently, this buildup will result in a string of avoidable problems such as kidney stones and vitamin D toxicity.

Are there certain types of Vitamin D that are preferable?

There are two choices – vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol and vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol. Experts advise that  we should take vitamin D3 instead of vitamin D2 because the former is the type of vitamin D that the human body already synthesize, hence it is expected to be more effective.

Another thing to consider is that vitamin D metabolism may be affected by some medications, such as, phenobarbital, dilantin, isoniazid and statin drugs (anticholesterol drugs). In such a case where you may be taking any of these as a maintenance medication, discuss this with your doctor to know the proper measures that ought to be taken.

Vitamin D and respiratory health

A recent research lead by Dr. Adrian R. Martineau focused on the role of vitamin D supplementation as an agent to prevent and treat tuberculosis, acute respiratory infections and exacerbation or asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The said research showed that vitamin D supplements seemed to reduce the risk of infection about 10%.

Prof. Carlos Camargo, who is also a senior author of the study shared that with acute respiratory infections being the main culprit behind millions of ER visits in the US each year, their findings support the fact that more foods should now be fortified with vitamin D.

A word from the experts

Decades of studies suggest that Vitamin D can prevent a host of health concerns. This lead people to believe that having more is better. However, as mentioned earlier, this is not the case. Experts suggest that there’s really no benefit to taking a supplement for people who are not deficient. Conversely, the study mentioned earlier showed that those with very low vitamin D levels do better when they are given supplements.

What should your approach be in terms of vitamin D supplementation?

On your next visit to your doctor, ask about your vitamin D levels and that you want to be checked if you need supplementation or not. The fact that it brings the body a gamut of positive reactions, it doesn’t meant that you should be heading out to the supplement aisle. It has to be taken conscientiously.

Talk to your doctor today and for all your supplement needs, find comprehensive reviews on the Best Multivitamin Guide. Remember, it’s all about getting the numbers right, if you want to bring a beautiful ray of sunshine in your life!

Photo credit: Foter.com

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