Vitamin D3: Benefits, Explanations, Food Sources
If you have seen or seen advertisements for orange juice or milk in the last decade, you know the importance of vitamin D.
This nutrient is one of the foundations of human health, and plays a major role in several bodily functions, including immune defense and bone strength.
Vitamin D may be difficult for some people to get enough, even with sun exposure. Fortunately, supplements can help keep vitamin D levels within a healthy range.
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Why is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D, also known as calciferol, is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids and is one of the 13 essential vitamins your body needs to function properly.
There are several types of vitamin D, but the two most important are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol).
The overall function of vitamin D is to help your body more efficiently absorb calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
This essential mineral helps build and maintain the strength of your bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves, but also contributes to other important body processes.
Without adequate vitamin D intake, your body is only able to absorb between 10 and 15 percent of the calcium found in your diet.
When your vitamin D levels are in the optimal range, your body can absorb between 30 and 40 percent — this is the difference between day and night.
Vitamin D can be consumed from most animal products and some plants.. However, what distinguishes vitamin D from other essential vitamins is that it can be produced naturally as well.
When your skin comes into direct contact with the ultraviolet B rays from sunlight, it triggers processes in your body that ultimately produce vitamin D.
For most people, it takes between five and 30 minutes of sunlight each day to keep their vitamin D levels in an optimal range. External factors such as where you live, the season, and the amount of melatonin in your skin can require you to get additional sun exposure to produce enough vitamin D.
What is Vitamin D3?
When people mention vitamin D, they almost always talk about vitamin D3.
Cholecalciferol (scientific name for vitamin D3) is what your body produces when it comes into contact with sunlight.
It's also the type of vitamin D you take in when you eat certain animal products, including most seafood.
Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) is another important type of vitamin D and is commonly found in oranges, citrus fruits and other citrus plants.
Vitamin D3 is generally considered to be more beneficial to the body than vitamin D2 because it lasts longer in the body and functions more efficiently.
If your doctor advises you to start taking vitamin D supplements, chances are they are talking about D3 specifically.
What are the Benefits of Vitamin D for the Body?
Vitamin D helps your body break down and absorb essential minerals more efficiently. Technically, vitamin D has no direct impact on your body; it's more like a tool.
Think of it like an offshore platform (Oil platform). Drill (vitamin D) extracts crude oil (calcium), which can then be used to make gasoline (bone).
Without drill (vitamin D), crude oil (calcium) will be much less, so the supply of gasoline (bone strength) will be reduced. In simple terms, the analogy is like that.
Vitamin D has a direct correlation with bone density and may help lower the risk of rickets. Higher vitamin D levels often result in more mineralized bone tissue.
Higher bone density not only means stronger bones, but also lowers the risk of developing bone conditions such as osteomalacia or osteoporosis as you age.
Vitamin D also plays a role in absorbing minerals that help muscles, mood, heart, and immune system.
Decreased muscle mass, depression, heart failure, and respiratory infections are commonly found in people who are vitamin D deficient.
What Foods Contain Vitamin D3?
Most people can get enough vitamin D from being in the sun, but that's not always an option.
The farther from the equator you live, the less sunlight you will see.
Taking supplements is a good way to keep your vitamin D levels in a healthy range. However, you may be able to get enough by making some changes to your diet.
Vitamin D is measured in "international units," or IU for short. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that adults under the age of 70 should get at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily.
Recommendations increase to 800 IU daily for anyone over 70 years of age.
The most effective way to get enough vitamin D is to take cod liver oil. Just one tablespoon of cod liver oil has 1360 IU of vitamin D, so you'll get more than double the recommended daily amount in one gulp!
These are some of the other foods that contain the highest levels of vitamin D:
- Beef liver
- orange juice
- Egg yolk
- Fortified milk
It is very important that You don't overdo it with vitamin D. More than 4,000 IU in one day can cause vitamin D
The effects of vitamin D poisoning can be serious and may include hypercalcemia, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, and even death.
It's hard to overdose on foods that contain vitamin D, but you should be careful if you take supplements and chug a salmon-mushroom-egg-yolk omelet every morning.
What Happens If We Don't Get Enough Vitamin D?
Several health conditions can interfere with your body's ability to absorb or produce vitamin D.
Cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease, pancreatitis, and celiac disease have all been shown to negatively affect your gut's ability to absorb the vitamin D found in food.
Kidney and liver disease can prevent the production of certain enzymes that your body uses to break down vitamin D so it can be absorbed.
Obesity can hinder your body's ability to absorb vitamin D. Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, excess body fat can isolate it and prevent it from being properly absorbed.
Individuals with darker skin, higher melatonin levels, or anyone who lives in an area with low levels of sunlight may not be getting enough ultraviolet light for their body to naturally produce enough vitamin D.
If any of these conditions or factors apply to you, then you may want to start taking supplements or seek treatment.
Vitamin D deficiency can have a serious impact on your body. The most common result of a vitamin D deficiency is weak and brittle bones.
Vitamin D also has a close relationship with the parathyroid glands in your body. These glands communicate with your stomach, kidneys, and skeleton to regulate the amount of calcium in your blood.
If you don't have enough calcium in your blood, these glands will take it from your bones to restore balance.
Having insufficient amounts of vitamin D can affect more than just your bones. Not only has it been linked to multiple sclerosis, heart disease, mental health conditions, and an increased risk of allergies, but vitamin D deficiency can even lead to erectile dysfunction.
There is a blood test that most doctors can do that can determine your vitamin D levels.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have a Vitamin D deficiency:
- Bone pain
- Muscle aches or pains
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Poor immune system
- Slow wound healing
Taking too much vitamin D can also cause side effects side effects, such as:
- Nausea and loss of appetite
Vitamin D3 is the preferred form of vitamin D, and it is important to consume enough vitamin D daily for your overall health.
Vitamin D is so important for your health that your body can produce it naturally. Your bones, muscles, and nerves all depend on vitamin D to extract the minerals and nutrients they need to function properly.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your doctor to see if you have a deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several health conditions and even hamper your immune system.