The D Factor
Five decades ago the National Research Council remarked that vigorous persons leading normal lives did not appear to need vitamin D. Half a century later researchers’ findings indicate that this observation was gravely in error.
Dr Chris at This Morning, ITV gave this interview on how Vitamin D can help offer protection from viruses, which is especially important during these unprecedented times. Take a look and read on.
Credit: This Morning, ITV - Dr Chris
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What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D, like other vitamins, is an organic compound essential for the body to carry out various functions. It is fat soluble.
Vitamin D is required for calcium and phosphorus metabolism and for the assimilation of vitamin A. Formerly believed to be needed only for healthy bones and teeth, it is now considered important for the efficient functioning of the muscular, nervous and immune systems. It may also play a part in warding off colds when used along with vitamin C, relieving menopausal symptoms and helping to treat conjunctivitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the inner surface of the eyes). In addition, it is being studied for its possible link to several health disorders including diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and some cancers.
A vitamin D deficiency can produce several health disorders. One of these is osteoporosis, a condition characterised by an abnormal loss of bone density. It occurs most often in postmenopausal women, individuals who are immobilised or mostly sedentary and those on long-term steroid therapy. Its symptoms include pain, loss of stature, deformities and fractures.
Another abnormality related to an undersupply of vitamin D in adults is osteomalacia. Bones soften because of inadequate mineralization. Symptoms include pain, weakness, appetite and weight loss and fractures.
A vitamin D deficiency often underlies tooth decay and tooth loss. Minerals are withdrawn from the jaw bones and the remaining structures can no longer hold the teeth firmly in place.
During the menopause some women experience hot flashes, night sweats, irritability and depression. These symptoms are also believed to be related to an undersupply of vitamin D, along with inadequate calcium.
Apart from people who do not obtain enough vitamin D from natural sources such as sunlight and food, certain other individuals are most at risk of becoming deficient of vitamin D. They include those who work at night or whose clothing shields them from the sun’s rays, and dark-skinned people whose skin has less ability than those who are fair skinned to make the vitamin through the action of sunlight. Also at risk are older adults because their skin doesn’t make the vitamin as efficiently as when they were younger. Obese individuals, whose excess fat prevents the vitamin from getting into the blood, are also at increased risk of becoming vitamin D deficient.
Natural sources Of Vitamin D
The action of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays on oils in the skin produces vitamin D, which is later absorbed into the body.
Fish such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and tuna and fish liver oils are among the best food sources.
Egg yolks, cheese, mushrooms and green leafy vegetables provide small amounts.
The vitamin is also added to many breakfast cereals and some brands of orange juice, margarine and yogurt.
An antagonist is something that works against something else. Here are some vitamin D antagonists.
- Sunscreens and sun blocks. Although these are recommended as protective against developing skin cancer, they nevertheless prevent the sun’s rays from acting on natural skin oils to form vitamin D.
- Overuse of soap and hot water. Vitamin D cannot be synthesised by the action of sunlight on the skin’s natural oils if these have been stripped away by prolonged hot baths and the use of too much soap.
- Smog, which prevents the sun’s rays from reaching us, also interferes with vitamin D production. During the winter months, people who live in the northern half of the hemisphere do not receive enough sunshine for vitamin D synthesis.
- Some medicines may interact with vitamin D and interfere with its absorption. Among these are some steroids such as Prednisone, some weight-loss drugs such as Alli, certain cholesterol-lowering medications such as Questran and some medicines used to control epileptic seizures such as phenytoin (brand name Dilantin).
For vitamin D to be absorbed and utilised, some fat must be present in our meals.
The vitamin works best when taken along with the vitamins A and C, the minerals calcium and phosphorus and with choline, a B-complex vitamin required to emulsify cholesterol so that it doesn’t adhere to artery walls in the gallbladder.
Because vitamin D is scantily provided by food and because its synthesis by the action of sunlight on our skin is inhibited by factors previously mentioned, supplementation is almost certainly required by most of us.
Vitamin D is measured in International Units (IU). The old recommended dose of 400 IU for adults is now considered grossly inadequate, and a daily supplement of 1,000 IU is safe and reasonable for most of us. Because individual needs vary, however, please first check with your health care provider about the dose that’s right for you.
Vitamin D toxicity almost always occurs from supplement overuse, and adults taking more than 10,000 IU daily may be at risk.
Signs of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss and constipation. More severe symptoms include confusion, disorientation, abnormal heart rhythm and kidney damage.
There was a time when vitamin D was dismissed as irrelevant to human health. Today, researchers have discovered that not only is it necessary but that it is also crucial for the normal functioning of perhaps all body systems. They have found, in addition, that because natural vitamin D sources do not meet these demands, supplementation may be imperative for most adults if we are to become and stay our healthiest.