Vitamin D – Benefits, Deficiency, Dosage & Risks

Fact checked by Mary Stricklin, BHSc FACT CHECKED

As humans conduct more and more research work, one conclusion always pops up underlining how important exposure to the rays of sun is important for our health because of the Vitamin D we get from the exposure to these rays. It is exactly so because of the benefits Vitamin D has on our body. But why is Vitamin D important?

Research studies have proved that this Vitamin we get fro our sun is impactful not only for our skeletal system and bones in a healthy way but it is also considered to be beneficial for our body’s blood pressure, immune system, brain functions, our mood and it also enables our body to protect itself from a lot of diseases.

According to a review published in 2019, the benefits our body receives from vitamin D ranges from improving our bone health to improving our immunity, and it also provides a resistance to various harmful diseases and chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression not to forget the various viruses and bacteria which are dealt with this essential vitamin.

However, provided these amazing health benefits, several research studies have concluded that vitamin D is one of those essential nutrient which most of the people are deprived of despite having a nearly abundant and absolutely free source of getting it. It is estimated that nearly 40 to 80% of Americans suffer from the deficiency of vitamin D alone as said in this research study.

Several research studies conclude that exposure to Sun rays alone account for nearly 95% of vitamin D an individual gets. However, these days people majorly spend their time indoors working in packed offices and staying in apartments where sun rays usually cannot make their way through which is why it is important for us to consume foods which have an ample amount of Vitamin D. These days, health experts recommend everyone from adults to children, from pregnant women to the breastfeeding women to supplement their diet with the daily recommended amount of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is also known by its chemical name of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and it is believed to be a Vitamin soluble in Fats which is not found in significant amounts in our daily food sources. Our body is capable of developing this protein only if our skin is exposed to the rays of the sun. It is considered to be an essential Vitamin because of our body’s inability to manufacture this vitamin on its own without the help and assistance of food and sunlight.

If we talk about Micronutrients, Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important micronutrients which often work in sync with each other to maintain the overall health and well being of our body. The relationship between Calcium and Vitamin D is of great importance for the metabolism of our bones and it is extremely important and an integral relationship for maintaining the overall health of our body’s skeleton.

Following is how Vitamin D is made and the important functions it plays in our body

Vitamin D2 v/s Vitamin D3

There are two major Vitamin D supplements namely:

  1. Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol)
  2. Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol)

Vitamin D’s precursor is usually found in products obtained from both animals and plants but products of Vitamin D3 which are obtained from Animals is considered to be much more beneficial because it is more readily absorbed in our body. Humans have also made some advancements in artificially creating Vitamin D in two different forms. One of these forms is Vitamin D2 which is created by yeast irradiation and also some other molds because of which it is also called Vegetarian Vitamin D2 whereas the other form is Vitamin D3 which is formed by the irradiation of cholesterol and animal oils.

Our human body is capable of naturally creating Vitamin D3 which is also known as Cholecalciferol.

Unfortunately, most of the natural food sources and dietary supplements contain Ergocalciferol which is a subtype of Vitamin D2. It is an unfortunate news because this form is neither absorbable in our body nor our body can convert into some other substances according to its needs.

The vitamin D3 we obtain from various animal products specially the cholesterol found in these products is the closest form of Vitamin D which is produced by the rays of the sun in our body when the chemicals under our skin convert these rays into vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is the most active form of vitamin D amongst all the forms and research studies believe that its absorption rate is unto 500 times faster than the absorption rate of Vitamin D2.

In the same study, it was found that Vitamin D3 is up to 4 times more effective in our body when compared to Vitamin D2.


Benefits of Vitamin D

We have talked about how essential vitamin D is for our body and what are its actual benefits. Let’s discuss them now:

  1. Helpful for the health of our bones

    Vitamin D plays a very important role in the absorption of calcium in our bones. Calcitriol which is a converted form of Vitamin D works with the parathyroid hormone to maintain the levels of calcium in our body.

    It also has a very major effect on various other essential nutrients and minerals which contribute to the health of our bones including the likes of Phosphorous, vitamin K and Magnesium. Because of its ability to affect the absorption of Calcium in our bones, it plays a very important role in the maintenance of Phosphorous levels in our blood and it also has some links with vitamin K.

    If you have low levels of Calcium, you can suffer from a condition called Osteomalacia in which your body’s bones soften and there will also be a risk of your suffering from Rickets which is a condition of Bone Abnormality. Several research studies have been conducted to study the effects of vitamin D on our bone’s health and it was discovered that when consumed in doses between 800 and 5,000 international units, the health of your musculoskeletal system can be improved because the aging process of your skeletal system will be slowed down which will significantly reduce the rate of falls and fractures in individuals over the age of 65.

    Thus, individuals over the age of 65 who have adequate levels of vitamin D are more active, have significantly stronger bones and are less likely to suffer from injuries when compared to individuals in the same age group but suffering from a deficiency of vitamin D. When the levels of vitamin D are less, our body’s parathyroid becomes overactive. This condition is known as Hyperparathyroidism and it leads to a drop in our body’s phosphorus levels.

  2. Boosts the immune system

    Our body undergoes some changes when it is exposed to the UV Rays of the sun which includes an increase in the levels of vitamin D. There are receptors present in our immune cells for this vitamin D and it has now been concluded that vitamin D benefits our body’s immune system in multiple ways including various excessive responses of inflammation.

    Several research studies still under progress show that vitamin D plays a major role in replication of healthy cells in our body and it might even help in developing several autoimmune conditions, immunity against viruses, infections and conditions like cold and common flu. Research studies have also concluded that adequate levels of vitamin D also helps in Macrophages where our body’s white blood cells attack various pathogens which helps them in doing their job properly.

    Vitamin D also has the ability to restrict the ability of several viruses to grow and replicate which then helps in strengthening the immune system of the body. It has also been proved to enhance the functioning of ACE2 enzyme which protects our body against acute lung diseases and injuries.

    Vitamin D also helps in controlling and decreasing inflammation in the body which benefits people suffering from several serious disorders and chronic diseases such as:

    1. Multiple Sclerosis.
    2. Rheumatoid Arthritis.
    3. Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.
    4. High blood pressure.
  3. Helps in preventing High Blood Sugar and Prevents Diabetes

    One of the most common symptoms of Diabetes are inadequate or low levels of Insulin in our body which increases our body’s resistance to Insulin. A research study conducted at the London School of Medicine and Dentistry concludes that Calcium is one of the most important element secretions of Insulin. Vitamin D increases Calcium production in our body and even increases its utilization and absorption in our body which ultimately leads to the regulation of Insulin production in our body.

    Another research study published in the Current Diabetes Review in 2015 stated that vitamin D had some positive effects on nearly every type of Type 2 diabetes patient including controlling the disease to a great extent.

    Might be effective in fighting Cancer

  4. Tumor Issues

    According to a research study published in the Frontiers in Endocrinology, plays a very important role in the factors related to the growth of tumor cells, cell differentiation and even apoptosis. A deficiency of vitamin D might be linked to increased risk of the development of Cancer cells especially cancer in breasts and colon. Research studies have now concluded that exposure to sunlight and adequate levels of vitamin D reduces the occurrence and morality of several Cancer cells.

    Research studies have also discovered that because of vitamin D’s property to block excess estrogen and its role in the cycle of our cell life, it might reduce the risk of Breast and Ovarian cancer.

    Helps in fighting several issues related to Human heart

  5. Heart Health

    Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining the health of our heart because of its ability to control our blood pressure and reduce inflammation. As humans conduct more research on the effects of vitamin D, it is being concluded that low levels of vitamin D in our body is linked to increased risk of several cardiovascular diseases because of its role in maintaining our body’s blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol.

    Regulates hormones and Improves mood

  6. Hormone Issues

    Because of vitamin D’s ability to act as a hormone in our body and its effects on the functioning of our brain, deficiency of vitamin D might be linked with an increased risk of several mood disorders including the likes of Depression and problems during PMS and Insomnia.

    Low levels of vitamin D might even interfere with the production of Estrogen and Testosterone which might lead to some unwanted problems because of improper balance.

  7. Improves Concentration, Learning Ability and Memory

    Research studies have also shown that vitamin D might have some effects on our ability to make important decisions, retain information or even concentrate. Research studies have now concluded that individuals with a decreased level of vitamin D often perform poorly in standardized examinations, might make poor decisions and might face some difficulties in performing tasks which requires them to focus.

    It has also been proved that low levels of vitamin D might lead to problems such as multiple sclerosis.

  8. Improves our skin health

    Vitamin D is considered to be beneficial for our skin because it boosts our body’s immune system, reduces inflammation and aids in the repair of skin cells and even increases our metabolism, Recommended levels of vitamin D might lead to delay the aging of the skin and reduce symptoms such as dryness and redness caused because of Eczema and Psoriasis.

Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

How would you know if you have a deficiency of Vitamin D in your body. Look out for these signs to get a hint

Risks and Side Effects

It is considered to be almost impossible to overdose on vitamin D, a condition known as vitamin D Toxicity but it is known to occur in individuals who have consumed a lot of vitamin D supplements.

Some of the common side effects of vitamin D Toxicity are:

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