Sunshine may be one of the best sources of Vitamin D, but there are several more. And this essential vitamin is not just good for the bones, it also improves your mood, boosts immunity and helps you lose weight.
Vitamin D is one of the most vital vitamins for your body, and one of its best sources is sunshine. All you need to do is spend 30 minutes outdoors, soaking in the sunshine.
What is Vitamin D?
Despite the name, vitamin D is considered a pro-hormone and not actually a vitamin. Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be created by the body and therefore must be taken in through our diet. However, vitamin D can be synthesized by our body when sunlight hits our skin. It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows most people to sufficiently produce this vitamin, but vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D:
1. For Healthy Bones
It plays a substantial role in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood, two factors that are extremely important for maintaining healthy bones. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium in the intestines and to reclaim calcium that would otherwise be excreted through the kidneys. Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, a disease characterized by a severely bow-legged appearance due to softening of the bones.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency manifests as osteomalacia (softening of the bones) or osteoporosis. Osteomalacia results in poor bone density and muscular weakness. Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease among post-menopausal women and older men.
2. For Cancer Prevention
This supplements have been widely marketed for their claimed anticancer properties. It is unclear, however, if taking additional vitamin D in the diet or as supplements affects the risk of cancer. Reviews have described the evidence as being “inconsistent, inconclusive as to causality, and insufficient to inform nutritional requirements”[ and “not sufficiently robust to draw conclusions”. One 2014 review found that supplements had no significant effect on cancer risk. 2014 review concluded that vitamin D3 may decrease the risk of death from cancer (one fewer death in 150 people treated over 5 years), but concerns with the quality of the data were noted. Insufficient evidence exists to recommend vitamin D supplements for people with cancer.
3. For Diabetes
A systematic review of 2014 concluded that the available studies show no evidence of vitamin D3 supplementation having an effect on glucose homeostasis or diabetes prevention. A review article of 2016 reported that while there is increasing evidence that vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for diabetes, over-all evidence regarding vitamin D levels and diabetes mellitus is contradictory, requiring further studies.
4. For Depression
Clinical trials of vitamin D supplementation for depressive symptoms have generally been of low quality and show no overall effect, although subgroup analysis showed supplementation for participants with clinically significant depressive symptoms or depressive disorder had a moderate effect.
5. For Cognition and Dementia
A systematic review of clinical studies found an association between low vitamin D levels with cognitive impairment and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, lower vitamin D concentrations are also associated with poor nutrition and spending less time outdoors. Therefore, alternative explanations for the increase in cognitive impairment exist and hence a direct causal relationship between vitamin D levels and cognition could not be established.
6. For Pregnancy
Low levels of vitamin D in pregnancy are associated with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and small (for gestational age) infants. Although taking vitamin D supplements during pregnancy raises blood levels of vitamin D in the mother at term, the extent of benefits for the mother or baby is unclear. Pregnant women who take an adequate amount of vitamin D during gestation may experience a lower risk of pre-eclampsia and positive immune effects. A 2018 review found that supplements may reduce the risk of undersized babies and of their poor rate of growth. Pregnant women often do not take the recommended amount of it.
7. For Weight Loss
Though hypothesized that vitamin D supplementation may be an effective treatment for obesity apart from calorie restriction, one systematic review found no association of supplementation with body weight or fat mass.
A 2016 meta-analysis found that circulating vitamin D status was improved by weight loss, indicating that fat mass may be inversely associated with blood levels of it.
Recommended Dietary Intake
The table shows of recommended intake of vitamin D according to age:
|Age group||RDA (IU/day)||(μg/day)|
|Infants 0–6 months||400||10|
|Infants 6–12 months||400||10|
|Age group||Tolerable upper intake level (IU/day)||(µg/day)|
|Infants 0–6 months||1,000||25|
|Infants 6–12 months||1,500||37.5|
|Age group||RDA (IU)||Tolerable upper intake (IU)|
|Infants 0–6 months||400||1,000|
|Infants 7–12 months||400||1,500|
|Children 1–3 years||600||2,500|
|Children 4–8 years||600||3,000|
|Children and Adults 9–70 years||600||4,000|
|Adults > 70 years||800||4,000|
|Pregnancy & Lactation||600||4,000|
|Australia and New Zealand|
|Age group||Adequate Intake (μg)||Upper Level of Intake (μg)|
|Infants 0–12 months||5||25|
|Children 1–18 years||5||80|
|Adults 19–50 years||5||80|
|Adults 51–70 years||10||80|
|Adults > 70 years||15||80|
|European Food Safety Authority|
|Age group||Adequate Intake (μg)||Tolerable upper limit (μg)|
|Infants 0–12 months||10||25|
|Children 1–10 years||15||50|
|Children 11–17 years||15||100|
|Pregnancy & Lactation||15||100|
|Adequate intake, no RDA/RDI yet established|
Although it is not present naturally in most foods, it is commonly added as a fortification in manufactured foods. In some countries, staple foods are artificially fortified with it.
Sunlight is the most common and efficient source. The richest food sources of it are fish oil and fatty fish. Here is a list of foods with good levels:
- cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU
- herring, fresh, raw, 4 ounces: 1,056 IU
- swordfish, cooked, 4 ounces: 941 IU
- raw maitake mushrooms, 1 cup: 786 IU
- salmon, sockeye, cooked, 4 ounces: 596 IU
- sardines, canned, 4 ounces: 336 IU
- fortified skim milk, 1 cup: 120 IU
- tuna, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces: 68 IU
- egg, chicken, whole large: 44 IU
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
deficiency may include:
- Getting sick or infected more often.
- Painful bones and back.
- Depressed mood.
- Impaired wound healing.
- Hair loss.
- Muscle pain.
If this deficiency continues for long periods of time it can result in:
- Chronic Fatigue syndrome
- Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease