Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins which plays an important role in the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels in our bodies. This vital role is responsible for maintaining the health of our bodies’ bones, teeth as well as muscles. The deficiency of Vitamin D is usually associated with rickets in kids and bone pain technically due to osteomalacia in the elderly.
Food Sources of Vitamin D
Before we consider food sources rich in vitamin D, it is good to mention that having sufficient exposure to sunlight can provide our bodies with sufficient quantities of this vitamin. This is because our bodies normally create vitamin D in our skins upon exposure to adequate sunlight. Thus, we need to be less worried of vitamin D deficiency during the months of March/ early April till the end of September.
However during the autumn and winter, it is recommended that the vitamin manufactured using sunlight be supplemented with foods rich in vitamin D. These include:
- Oily fish; herring, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna as well as mackerel
- Egg yolk
- Foods which are fortified; from many of the fats spreads as well as most of the breakfast cereals
You could also rely in dietary supplements to boost your vitamin D stores. It is good to mention that cow milk in the UK, is not especially good as a source of vitamin D since most of it isn’t fortified as is the practice in other countries.
The Daily recommended allowances of Vitamin D in the UK
Babies from birth up to 1 year require 8.5 to 10mcg of vitamin D per day.
Above 1 year up to adulthood, the daily recommended amount is 10mcg of vitamin D. This group includes women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Individuals who are considered to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency should also take this recommended daily requirement.
As alluded to earlier on, during the spring and summer time, most of us are able to create sufficient amounts of vitamin D hence we don’t necessarily have to be worried about the daily requirements. However, there some exceptions to this:
The babies who are being breastfed, from birth to 1 year need to receive the daily requirement of 8.5 to 10cmg.
Infants who are being given infant formula of a volume greater than 500mls don’t need to receive the daily vitamin D supplements
Kids between the age of 1 and 4 years, ought to be given the daily recommended requirements of 10cmg of vitamin D
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms are rarely experienced but when they do occur they include the following:
- Problems thinking clearly
- Frequent bone fractures
- Muscle weakness
- Unexplained fatigue
- Bone pain
- A child may end up with deformities of the soft bones, which results in the classical appearance of rickets
Who is likely to be Deficient?
There are certain groups of people who are particularly vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency, they are:
- Those with darker skin; having a darker skin requires that you get more exposure to sunlight compared to the light skinned people to synthesize vitamin D.
- Individuals who spend most of their time indoors during the day. This reduces their exposure to sunlight during the day.
- Those who cover most of their skin all the time; this also includes the use of sunscreens.
- Those who reside in areas that have less exposure to sunrays, this mostly applies to those in the upper parts of the Northern hemisphere.
- Older individuals since they have thinner skins limiting the amount of vitamin D that they can produce.
- Infants who are being breastfed but not receiving vitamin D supplements
- Women who are pregnant
- Obese individuals.
- A new study, the ODIN study done by the University of Surrey showed that UK teenagers were more prone to being vitamin D deficient.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Helps in the Maintenance of Bone Health
The key role of vitamin D in our bodies is to promote bone health by supporting the development as well as maintenance of bones and teeth as well. This is achieved by the regulation of Calcium and phosphate levels in our blood. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of Calcium from the large gut besides helping in the reclaiming of calcium which would otherwise be excreted by our kidneys.
How important this is, can be proven from the manifestations of vitamin D deficiency which is characterized by bone deformity in children due to an interference with mineralization and development of their bone. In adults, bone pains can also be attributed to this.
It can deal with Mood/SAD disorders
Studies have been done which have associated low levels of vitamin D with mood disorders, seasonal affective disorders. The use of supplements of Vitamin D has been thought to deal or reduce the symptoms of these diseases but more research has to be done to ascertain this. Research done between 2011 and 2013 by Anglin et al confirmed that low levels of the active form of vitamin D is associated with the depressive conditions while administration of supplements was associated with improvements. Though the results from various studies have provided conflicting information, there seems to be a role of vitamin D in this since many of the receptors for its active form have been found in the brain.
Helps in the Management of Asthma
Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory properties which could aid in providing a scientific explanation for this. Studies have proved that taking vitamin D supplements could help reduce the risk of having severe asthma attacks. This vitamin could help reduce inflammation in the airways which usually lead to the symptomatic effects of asthma being manifested due to the narrowing of the airways.
The beneficial effects of vitamin D were proven by a series of three studies which were done in the UK through the Cochrane Collaboration. These studies were being followed closely by the Guardian and BBC news and the conclusion was a proven role of vitamin D in helping to reduce the severity with the dose taken being regulated to avoid cases of taking an overdose.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be synthesized naturally in our skins during adequate exposure to sunlight. Its deficiency can be manifested by a number of symptoms which include bone pain, muscle weakness just to mention a few. It plays many vital roles in our bodies, the key role being maintenance of bone health but recent studies have proved that it could also be helpful in dealing with mood disorders and severe asthma attacks.
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