Vitamin D3 role in health
Vitamin D is also called calciferol. It is a sunshine vitamin, a fat-soluble vitamin. Very few food items have it in high amounts. Thus, humans are dependent on UV-rays exposure (sunshine) for triggering its synthesis by the skin. However, its deficiency is rising, as people are not spending enough time in the sun. Moreover, if they are out, they are still covering most of their bodies.
Vitamin D, after entering into the body, is converted to “calcidiol” by the liver. And, finally, it is converted to its active form, “calcitriol,” in the kidneys.
Vitamin D is not only essential for bone mineralization. It also promotes the absorption of calcium, helps maintain levels of phosphate. In addition, it has numerous other roles in the body.
The two most commonly available forms of vitamin D in foods and supplements are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol).
The best and most reliable way of understanding the vitamin D status of an individual is by measuring serum levels of 25(OH)D.
Adults need 15 mcg or 600 IU of vitamin D3 daily. However, those living with vitamin D deficiency, older adults, individuals with chronic ailments may need it in much higher amounts.
One should not confuse recommended daily intake with therapeutic dosages. Thus, one would need to increase its dosage to a much higher dosage of 1000 IU or more for health benefits.
It is vital to note that new research shows that vitamin D3 is superior to vitamin D2. In addition, some studies show that the potency of vitamin D2 is just one-third of vitamin D3. Thus, for those looking to supplement vitamin D, they should better choose vitamin D3.
Vitamin D deficiency is well documented. It causes weak bones. Its severe deficiency causes rickets in children, resulting in malformation of bones and teeth. However, in the western world or developed economies, severe vitamin D deficiency is rare. Therefore, a more significant concern is low-grade or sub-clinical vitamin D deficiency, which may increase the risk of numerous health conditions.
Modern population-based studies estimate that about 1 billion people are living with vitamin D deficiency. Interestingly enough, vitamin D deficiency is quite widespread in Middle East Asia or South Asia as people at these places tend to avoid sunshine.
Vitamin D is one of the most extensively studied vitamins by science. There are numerous reasons for its deficiency and not only lack of adequate exposure to sunshine. It is also caused by hepatic diseases, renal failure, obesity, malabsorption of the vitamin (inflammatory bowel diseases). Certain medications may also lead to vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is not just about bone health. Its deficiency has widespread implications like poor immunity, higher risk of autoimmune disorders, greater risk of diabetes, muscle weakness, increased risk of cancer.
Vitamin D is critically important for bone health. However, recent studies show that it is equally vital for the immune system. It can bind to vitamin D receptors and alter the expression of specific genes involved in immunity. Thus, it may help prevent allergies and autoimmune disorders. In addition, it may enhance antimicrobial responses and help the body defend itself from seasonal infections.