What is Vitamin D?
The term vitamin D is a bit of misnomer as it’s not really a vitamin; a scientist in the 1920’s mistakenly linked cod liver oil with the prevention of rickets in dogs. Little did they surmise that in fact vitamin D comes from sunshine by interacting with our skin, then circulating through the body. It acts beneficially on tissue and organs, not only assisting with maintenance but also repair.
Why do we need it?
Vitamin D is much different than other vitamins in that it can be made in our bodies just through exposure to sunshine. The main function of vitamin D is regulating the absorption of phosphorus and calcium in our bones and aiding cell to cell communication throughout the body. A lack of vitamin D causes bone and muscle pain, softer bones which can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
In the past few years researchers have established that vitamin D plays an important part in the prevention of many more illnesses than previously thought. Research collected over the past 15 years, however, has revealed that lack of the vitamin D also significantly increases the risk of heart disease, malignant tumors in the prostate, breasts and colon; there were also studies linking the frequency of respiratory infections to low levels of vitamin D. Studies conducted among pregnant women showed a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and gestational diabetes as well as preeclampsia. Since the fetus is unable to synthesize vitamin D on its own, mothers should have the correct level of vitamin D in order to ensure the proper development of the child.
How much is recommended?
The recognition of all the above led twelve Hungarian professional associations to take a common stance and suggest that the recommended vitamin D amount for adults during the winter be increased from 400 to 1,500-2,000 International Units (IU) daily, noting that achieving this amount with dietary supplements is especially important in the case of pregnancy also adding that overweight people may even need twice the already increased level. Vitamin D requirements of individuals with darker skin, particularly those living in temperate zones, could also be higher because the melanin in their skin affects UV penetration so they need supplements to make up for the lack of natural synthesis.
If we consider that the daily vitamin D intake of the average Hungarian household is below 80 IUs per capita, it becomes clear that the difference has to be compensated for somehow. This is most difficult during the winter months: the sun shines much less and since it is cold we spend far less time outside. A vitamin D deficiency following the winter months can leave us feeling drained and exhausted in the spring. Fortunately, however, with the use of dietary supplements, vitamin D levels can be easily regulated.
When was the last time you had your levels checked? Stop by our clinic for a Vitamin D screening which an important component of the diagnostic work from an Annual Health Maintenance exam. Click here for more details.
Dr. Tünde Györgyi‘s comment on a related article:
‘It is true. In fact in smokers high dose of antioxidants (vit A, E and others) may increase the chance for cancer. On the other hand vitamin D is still thought to be important due to the lack of sunshine in the winter months and the city lifestyle (increased indoor and decreased outdoor activities).’