Vitamins and Minerals are indispensable in promoting health and preventing illness. They are essential to the growth and development of every human being and are the triggers for many chemical reactions, processes and functions within the body. One particular Vitamin, Vitamin D has been recognized as a significant factor in determining health outcomes by contributing to increasing calcium absorption and prevention of both rickets and osteomalacia. Additionally, Vitamin D deficiency has also been implicated as a contributing factor to cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes and epilepsy amongst other things.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin to humans to maintain homeostasis. Vitamin D belongs to the super family of nuclear steroid transcription regulators that include thyroid hormones, vitamin A, androgens, and the glucocorticoids. As a result, it has been shown that vitamin D is able to influence a variety of genes. All of the above mentioned super family regulators are vital because they define and shape brain development and ongoing function.
Vitamin D is particularly important during pregnancy. Reproductive hormones have a direct effect on our bones, and during pregnancy and lactation the hormones work alongside the vitamin D endocrine system to ensure that calcium needs are met. There has been a number of recent studies that indicate that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy may influence the overall outcome of the pregnancy along with disease development and growth of the offspring later in childhood.
In addition, there has also been increasing evidence from recent studies to suggest that vitamin D may play an important role in modifying risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension. “Vitamin D has both direct (through activation of the vitamin D receptor) and indirect (via regulation of calcium homeostasis) effects on various mechanisms related to the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, including pancreatic beta cell dysfunction, impaired insulin action, systemic inflammation and alterations in the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system”.
Vitamin D is obtained primarily through sunlight and a person’s skin colours is a key factor in amount of sunlight required each day. Other sources of Vitamin D can be acquired from food items such as fatty fish, eggs, meat and fortified foods but adequate intake is unlikely to be achieved through food sources alone. A combination of sunlight and food is best for optimal levels and the instance of deficiency supplementation may be required.
It is important to note that excess Vitamin D via supplementation is also possible and can lead to toxicity. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn and skin melanomas. If you are unsure about your Vitamin D levels blood tests can be conducted by the relevant authority i.e. doctor to test levels and then prescribe or provide recommendations accordingly.