Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which is naturally synthesized by your body. It can be broadly classified into two types depending on its synthesis; vitamin D2 (also called ergocalciferol) is produced by plants while vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) is produced by humans when their skin is exposed to UVB (ultraviolet-B) rays that are obtained by sunlight. In humans, the active form of this vitamin is synthesized in the kidneys.
What are the functions of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for regulating the activity of nerves, muscles, calcium and phosphorous levels, secretion of insulin, various immune functions and the production of cells. It is not only crucial for survival and growth of different cells in the body but is also a part of many metabolic processes and should essentially be considered as a prohormone.
What are some signs of Vitamin D deficiency?
The following are some indicators of vitamin D deficiency, if you find any of these signs applicable to your body; it is high time that you consider taking vitamin D supplements.
- Feeling depressed most of the time.
- Wounds heal slowly.
- Excessive hair loss.
- Pain in muscles, bones and back.
- Falling ill or experiencing infections often.
Health benefits of taking Vitamin D supplements
Taking Vitamin D supplements is recommended for all adults in order to maintain health and to make sure that all metabolic processes can occur smoothly. Since taking these supplements has shown no adverse side-effects, most doctors prescribe these supplements for the following health benefits.
Risk of osteoporosis and fractures is reduced
- Vitamin D supplements when combined with calcium are likely to prevent osteoporosis and fractures due to the vitamin’s beneficial effects on the density of bone mineral.
- Vitamin D increases bone mineral density, mineralization and is often used as a therapeutic while treating osteoporosis.
Reduces the risk of cancer
- Researchers have shown how the byproducts of this vitamin prevent the spreading of cancerous cell growth and how it also brings about the death of existing cancer cells. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of pancreatic, ovarian, breast and prostate cancer.
- Taking vitamin D supplements in combination with everyday exposure to sunlight has proven to be beneficial for women since it prevents the risk and occurrence of breast cancer.
- Studies have shown that a daily intake of 2000 IU of this vitamin is correlated with a 50% reduction in the prevalence of breast cancer.
Necessary for brain development
- Daily intake of vitamin D supplement reduces the risk of different psychotic and neurotic disorders and helps combat dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, depression etc.
- Induces detoxification by inhibiting nitric oxide which protects brain cells.
- Necessary for production of proteins which prevent neurological disorders
- Improves different cognitive functions like memory, balance etc.
Helps combat sleep disorders
- Deficiency has been prevalent in cases of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
- Higher levels of vitamin D in the body increase your chances of sleeping better.
Combats cardiovascular diseases
- Helps fight against heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial diseases.
- Lowers blood pressure and improves the body’s control over it which prevents a variety of cardiovascular diseases.
Helps reduce the risk of diabetes
- Vitamin D plays a vital role in synthesis of insulin and its secretion from the pancreas which not only helps fight against diabetes but slows down the progression as well.
Apart from these major health benefits, vitamin D is proven to have anti-inflammatory properties and is also seen as a cure for celiac disease, cystic fibrosis etc. Its importance to the nervous system, the immune system and the digestive system show just how important it is to take vitamin D supplements on a daily basis.