Vitamin D plays an essential role in the body which is absolutely necessary for the absorption and maintenance of calcium. Having the required amount of calcium in the body enables the maintenance of the appropriate structure within the bones, teeth and proper functioning of the nervous system. This is the major reason why we require the appropriate levels of Vitamin D in our body. Vitamin D belongs to a group of fat-soluble vitamins. In order for the vitamin to become active, it needs to undergo a series of processes in the body. It is formed from two types of pro-vitamins: 7-dehydrocholesterol, also known as vitamin D3 which is derived from animals and ergosterol, also known as vitamin D2 which is found in yeast and plants.
In the skin, thanks to the action of the ultraviolet radiation we receive from the sunlight, they get converted into cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2), respectively. In the liver, a conversion into 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (or calcidiol) is made and then in the kidney 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol (or calcitriol) is produced, which is the most active product of Vitamin D to induce intestinal absorption of calcium, phosphorus and bone re-absorption.
How can we increase the Vitamin D IU levels in our body?
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which stimulates the conversion of pro-vitamin D to pre-vitamin D and then finally into Vitamin D in the skin. Exposure to the sun for around 15-30 minutes, three or four days a week, ensures adequate levels of this vitamin in our body. Vitamin D produced in the skin is stored in adipose tissue and muscle to cover the needs in times of the year when there is less sun exposure. Some of the foods that are extremely rich in the vitamin D are oily fish, fish liver oil (commonly known as cod liver oil), margarine, egg yolk, milk and dairy products.
What happens after the increase of our vitamin D levels?
Vitamin D behaves in such a way inside the body that it is classified as a hormone. It is involved in an important task known as the mineral homeostasis that deals with the regulation of the gene expression and also that of cellular differentiation. Vitamin D is the only known substance which stimulates the process of absorption of calcium and also the phosphorus present in food into the small intestine, especially in the jejunum region, and also increases the kidney’s capacity in the re-absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which makes it essential to maintain the concentration of these minerals in the process of blood and bone mineralization. Therefore, it is mandatory for everyone to have sufficient Vitamin D levels in their body.
It also stimulates the separation of the bone-forming cells, called osteoclasts. This particular activity in the endocrine system has great importance on health, especially during the days of pregnancy.
What is the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D?
The recommended daily allowance of vitamin d3 is around 200 IU (5 micrograms per day). This amount is absolutely essential in order to ensure the prevention of diseases such as rickets and also to ensure the proper bone development in growing children, as well as adolescents. Healthy adults should gradually increase their Vitamin D intake to 2000 IU (50 micrograms per day) or sometimes even up to 6000 IU (150 micrograms per day) for pregnant women.
What are the reasons for Vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D acts as an agent that prevents and cures diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Rickets is a popular bone disease which occurs commonly in children because of poor vitamin D IU levels. If the same deficiency occurs in adults, the condition is called osteomalacia. This disease is very much prevalent among women after the age of 40. The cause may be due to a diet that is deficient in Vitamin D, accompanied with poor sun exposure.
Other causes include mal-absorption syndromes, diarrhea, surgery of the digestive tract, liver and kidney diseases or use of anticonvulsants such as phenytoin and barbiturates.
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