What do you need to know about vitamin D? Why do we need it?

What do you need to know about vitamin D? Why do we need it?

Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient for the human body. Its main function is to regulate the body’s calcium and phosphorus metabolism. Vitamin D is found in food and supplements in two main forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms are absorbed well in the digestive tract. The co-existence of fat in the gut increases the absorption of vitamin D, but some of the vitamin is absorbed even without fat. Still, most of the vitamin is not formed from food, but through a chemical reaction when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Vitamin D plays an important role in skeletal development, maintaining bone health and neuromuscular function. Without it, bones become brittle and deformed — rickets occurs in children, and osteomalacia in adults. Without vitamin D, the body has no choice but to use its own calcium for its needs, removing it from bones. Special osteoclast cells literally dissolve them to increase serum calcium levels. This leads to softening and increased porosity of the bone tissue. 

Vitamin D Deficiency 

It was previously thought that vitamin D deficiency in adults was limited to institutionalized older adults, but recent evidence suggests otherwise. A group of international experts concluded that approximately 50 percent of people aged 65 years and over were unable to maintain healthy bone density and strong teeth due to insufficient levels of vitamin D. Common manifestations of vitamin D deficiency are symmetrical lower back pain, muscle weakness, muscle pain and throbbing bone pain that occurs when pressure is applied to the sternum or tibia. But quite often, the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are insidious or non-specific, so clinically, it is not always possible to diagnose the condition and treat it. A common cause of deficiency is medications such as anticonvulsants or glucocorticoids, which can increase catabolism and actively destroy vitamin D. However, about a third of people with a known deficiency have no identifiable risk factors


Healthy prevention of vitamin D deficiency 

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, infants and children are recommended to get at least 400 IU per day from food and supplements. Available data show that vitamin D supplements of at least 700-800 IU per day reduce the incidence of fractures and falls in the elderly. For most young, healthy people, 10 micrograms per day (400 IU) will suffice. If your doctor has advised you to take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice. Chronic excess vitamin D can lead to the accumulation of too much calcium in the body, a condition called hypercalcemia. This can negatively affect bone, kidney and heart health. Do not take more than 100 mcg (4,000 IU) of vitamin D per day, as this may be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and lactating women and the elderly, as well as children aged 11 to 17. Now, you can’t overdose on vitamin D at the beach, but remember to cover or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods of time to reduce your risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

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