Vitamin D is crucial not only for the healthy growing and development of your bones, but some studies also pointed out that it plays a role in reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis or heart disease.
But what is vitamin D and how do you get it?
Sources of Vitamin D & Causes of Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be found naturally in some types of food, dietary supplements or you can get it from direct exposure to sunlight.
For activation, the body must transform vitamin D. The first transformation (hydroxylation) occurs in the liver and converts vitamin D to 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D. The second change takes place in the kidney and forms the active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D or 1,25(OH)2D.
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption; it is needed for bone growth, cell growth and it also reduces inflammation.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with the following:
- increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- cognitive impairment in seniors which enhances the risk of Alzheimer's or dementia
- severe asthma in children
Some studies say that vitamin D may play a role in the prevention and treatment of diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.
Deficiency may occur for a number of reasons:
- If you don't consume the proper amount and type food which contains vitamin D.
You are at high risk if you follow a strict vegan diet because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including salmon, sardines, egg yolk, shrimp, beef liver, milk, yogurt.
- If you can't get enough sunlight.
You are at a higher risk if you are homebound or live in northern latitudes.
- If your skin is dark.
The pigment melanin limits the skin's ability to make vitamin D.
- If you cannot convert vitamin D.
If your kidney cannot convert vitamin D into its active form.
- If you cannot absorb vitamin D.
You are at higher risk if you have any kind of gastrointestinal disease (Crohn's disease) which limits your ability to absorb vitamin D.
- If you are obese.
You can test your vitamin D level by 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. While a level of 20 nanograms (ng) /milliliter (mL) is considered to be okay, a level less than 12ng/mL indicates deficiencies.