what is vitamin d

What is Vitamin D? What is Vitamin D Good for?

You’ve probably heard about vitamin D but don’t know what it’s for? In today’s article, you will understand the vitamin definition, in addition to the benefits of vitamin D3, how much you should take daily, what are the sources of vitamin D, among other helpful information for your health.

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Vitamin Definition

To understand more about Vitamin D, you must know the concept of vitamins first. Vitamins are substances necessary for the development, growth and functioning of cells.

In total, there are 13 vitamins considered essential – with distinct characteristics and functions – and they can be divided into two types:

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

These are vitamins that are more easily digested by the body when ingested with fat. There are only 4 fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and they are stored in muscle, fat and liver.

Water-Soluble Vitamins

These vitamins are not stored by the body – except for vitamin B12 –, so you have to consume them regularly to maintain adequate levels. On the other hand, when you ingest them excessively, the surplus is discarded in the form of urine. There are 9 water-soluble vitamins – Vitamin C and all B vitamins.

The Benefits of Vitamin D3

There is a lot of evidence that associates the lack of vitamin D with the development of chronic diseases. At the same time, adequate consumption can improve health, especially for muscles and bones. In any case, there is still a lot to be explored by science in this field.

This study states that 50% of the world’s population suffers from vitamin D insufficiency, besides exploring some benefits of adequate intake:

1. It may Help to Prevent Heart Diseases

Several studies show that vitamin D can have a protective effect on the heart. These researches show that people who maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D in the body tend to have less heart disease (such as hypertension) when compared to patients with low levels of Vitamin D.

2. It Helps to Support your Cognition as You Age

Another study carried out in Italy followed patients for 6 years and showed that low vitamin D levels were related to a considerable cognitive decline in the elderly population – especially in executive functions.

3. It Supports Your Muscle and Bones Health

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone health by helping the body to absorb calcium and phosphorus. There is still evidence that vitamin D can support muscle strength and that vitamin D deficiency was associated with an increased risk of fractures and falls in older adults.

4. It Helps to Prevent Autoimmune Diseases

Low levels of Vitamin D can contribute to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes (especially in children), rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune thyroid disease.

How Much Vitamin D3 Should I Take Daily?

The recommended intake of vitamin D varies with age. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average daily recommendation is:

Life StageRecommended Amount
Birth to 12 Months10 mcg (400 IU)
1 – 13 years15 mcg (600 IU)
14 – 18 years15 mcg (600 IU)
19 – 70 years15 mcg (600 IU)
71 years or more20 mcg (800 IU)
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Teens and Women15 mcg (600 IU)

Foods High in Vitamin D

The truth is that few foods contain vitamin D. In this sense, animal sources provide better amounts of vitamin D, but remember that the animal’s diet can be an influencing factor. The best sources are fatty fish (such as trout, salmon, tuna and others) and fish liver oil.

Vitamin D is also found in smaller amounts in bull’s liver, egg yolks, cheese and mushrooms. Due to this difficulty in consuming it, countries like the United States and Canada tend to fortify dairy products with Vitamin D3. That means if you live in one of these countries, you can also ingest it while drinking milk.

Vitamin D from Sun

Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin since your body can produce it after sun exposure. There is a lot of controversy regarding how long we should be out in the sun to produce adequate amounts. As we all live in different places, other factors such as the season, clouds, and even pollution can affect the incidence of UVB in the skin.

Either way, according to Harvard Health, sun exposure on your arms and legs for 10 to 15 minutes a day, a few times a week, can generate the Vitamin D your body needs. Be very careful with the time you usually expose yourself to the sun, as the hottest periods can harm your skin and health.

What Are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in the body are often associated with muscle weakness and bone pain. Remember that you can still have low vitamin D levels without experiencing any symptoms, so the best way to check if your levels are adequate is to have blood tests periodically.

What if You Get Too Much Vitamin D?

Just as it is still challenging to understand what benefits vitamin D can provide, there are still doubts about excessive consumption. According to Harvard Health, excessive intake of vitamin D can be toxic in rare cases. It may be associated with the development of hypercalcemia (excess calcium in the blood) and predisposing women to kidney stones.

You should see your doctor to understand how much you can take in this sense. Don’t forget that overdosing on any type of vitamin or supplement can have severe consequences for your health.

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