Vitamin D 101 — A Detailed Beginner's Guide

Vitamin D 101 — A Detailed Beginner's Guide

Vitamin D is often called the ‘Sunshine vitamin.’ This is because the nutrient is produced in the body from cholesterol when the skin is exposed to sunlight. 

Apart from sunlight, this vitamin can be obtained by eating the right diet or through supplements. Having a sufficient amount of this vitamin is important as it offers several health benefits. 

In this article, we will talk about this vitamin in detail. We will discuss its benefits for the health as well as understand the right dosage. So, let’s begin. 

All about Sunshine Vitamin

It is a fat-soluble vitamin. This implies that it dissolves in the oils and fats present in the body and can be stored for a long time. Also, it is further categorized into two main types: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The former is found in plants whereas the latter is present in animal foods such as egg yolks and fatty fish. 

The vitamin is produced in the body when the skin is exposed to sun rays. So people living in areas where there is abundant sunshine can easily get the needed amount of the nutrient by sunbathing

However, sunbathing essentially involves exposing large parts of your body to the sun. If you stay behind the glass, put on your sunscreen lotion, or just expose your hands and feet to the sun, your body will not produce the adequate vitamin

On the other hand, if you plan to stay under the sun for long, you must apply sunscreen. Failing to do that might lead to sunburns, premature skin aging, and even skin cancer. 

Vitamin D gets stored in the body for a long time, i.e. weeks or months. So, occasionally exposing your body to the sun is sufficient to get the needed amount. But if you live in a place that does not offer a lot of light, you will have to depend on diet and supplements. 

Noteworthy Benefits of Vitamin D

The incredible nutrient plays multiple roles in the body. It benefits human health in the following ways:

  • The vitamin promotes healthy bones. Taking it in higher quantities can help to prevent the risk of falls, fractures, and osteoporosis in older people. 
  • A noteworthy benefit of vitamin D is that it boosts the immune system and supports nervous system health. It even helps to battle the symptoms of depression in people. 
  • Including the vitamin in your daily diet helps to regulate the insulin levels in the body. Besides, it is also associated with a reduced risk of type 1 diabetes. 
  • The nutrient increases physical strength in both upper and lower limbs. Some studies also indicate that the vitamin helps to improve mortality. 
  • The vitamin may also help to prevent cancer. Consuming it every day is linked to a 60% reduced risk of cancer development. 
  • Low levels of vitamin D in pregnant women may increase the risk of gestational diabetes and bacterial vaginosis. It may also increase the risk of preterm birth. 

These are some of the most notable benefits of taking this vitamin. However, a lot of research conducted is preliminary. Thus, more evidence is needed to confirm many of these benefits. 

Sources of Vitamin D

The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Apart from that, there are plentiful food sources that also contain this nutrient. These include:

  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese
  • Fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef liver
  • Fortified milk, cereals, and juices

How Much to Consume?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is as follows:

Group

Age 

Dosage Amount

Infants

0-12 months

400 IU (10 mcg)

Children

1- 18 years

600 IU (15 mcg)

Adults 

<70 years

600 IU (15 mcg)

Adults above 70 years

>70 years

800 IU (20 mcg)

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

800 IU (20 mcg)


As discussed above, the sun is the best source of vitamin D. Exposing your body to the sun for 5-10 minutes, 2 times a week is sufficient for all people. Alternatively, you can depend on diet and supplements to get your needed intake of the nutrient. 

In most cases, it is almost impossible to overdose on this vitamin. Thus, its toxicity is quite rare. However, if you take exceptionally high doses of the vitamin for very long periods, you may experience some symptoms. And this may include depression, abdominal pain, constipation, drowsiness, lack of concentration, and high blood pressure. 

It is best to consult your doctor before starting on any vitamin D supplements.

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