Vitamin D

The Sunshine Nutrient


Why Is This Micronutrient Hogging So Much Limelight?


It’s not for nothing that this micronutrient is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. To decode the phrase literally, sunlight is by far the best source of vitamin D for the human body. Direct exposure of skin to sunlight produces vitamin D in the body. While calcium is the chief benefactor of our bones, vitamin D is the key to unravelling the healing powers of the benefactor.

An estimated 1 billion people are deficient in this vitamin according to Harvard University report, and yet vitamin D deficiency remains the ‘ignored epidemic’ (as described aptly by the US National Institutes of Health).

Vitamin D is absolutely vital for strong bones as it helps the body to absorb calcium made available to it through diet. In children, adequate vitamin D levels are very crucial for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, and to prevent delayed motor development. But attributing only strong bones and teeth to vitamin D is like revealing only a fraction of the ‘D power’. Vitamin D deficiency can wreak havoc on health in more ways than you can imagine.

Vitamind D


Perils of running low on vitamin D

  • Thinning or brittle bones accelerating the risk of osteoporosis
  • Rickets in children which is responsible for bone deformities
  • Muscle weakness and aches
  • Weakened immune system that increases the risk of infections
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults
  • Heightened risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Insulin resistance leading to or aggravating diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Painful PMS
  • Asthma
  • Increased chances of having cancers such as colorectal, pancreatic, breast and prostate.


Common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

  • Bone pain
  • Recurrent bone fractures
  • Bone deformities in children
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constant fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Clouded thinking
  • Depression


Who all are at a greater risk of being vitamin D deficient?

  • Those with very low sun exposure from being homebound, living in northern latitudes or due to applying too much sunscreen almost all day
  • Those with dark skin, as the pigment ‘melanin’ hampers the production of vitamin D by the skin
  • Those whose digestive tracts can’t absorb vitamin D efficiently
  • Obese individuals, as they are more likely to have low vitamin D levels in their blood.


How do we lay our hands on this top-notch micronutrient?

  • Sunshine: It is the best source of vitamin D. When the sun's UV rays penetrate our skin, the body responds by producing vitamin D. We get between 80 to 90% of our vitamin D in this manner. About 15-20 minutes of sunshine (unfiltered by sunscreen) per day is all that is needed to replenish vitamin D. The best time of the day for getting adequate vitamin D through sunlight is between 11am to 3pm.
  • Supplements: For people with very low vitamin D levels, doctors often prescribe supplements to overcome any serious health risks arising from this deficiency. Vitamin D supplements specially come to the rescue of the vegans, since most of the vitamin D food sources are animal products. The most commonly recommended form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. The frequency of intake may be daily or weekly and the method of intake could be oral or intramuscular, depending upon the severity of the deficiency. You should always consult a physician before taking these supplements.
  • Diet: There are only a very few food items that are rich sources of vitamin D. They may not be sufficient to offset the vitamin D deficiency on their own. These are:
    •        Cod liver oil
    •        Fatty fish such as herring, salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel and halibut
    •        Egg yolk
    •        Mushrooms, mainly the ones exposed to UV rays, such as shiitake mushrooms
    •        Vitamin D fortified food products such as milk, yogurt, cereals, orange juice, etc.
  • Sunshine: It is the best source of vitamin D. When the sun's UV rays penetrate our skin, the body responds by producing vitamin D. We get between 80 to 90% of our vitamin D in this manner. About 15-20 minutes of sunshine (unfiltered by sunscreen) per day is all that is needed to replenish vitamin D. The best time of the day for getting adequate vitamin D through sunlight is between 11am to 3pm.


Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D


As per the guidelines from the American Institute of Medicine, here is the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per day of vitamin D:

  • Ages 1 to 70 years (including pregnancy and lactating): 600 IU
  • Ages 70 and older: 800 IU

The vitamin D levels in your body can be measured most accurately through the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test.


So, if you have been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, never ignore it like it was just another headache. The consequences can be severe and the scare is real! Remember to follow the sun-soaking ritual, the vitamin D rich diet and the supplements as recommended by your physician. Rest assured that these will help you retain the sunshine in your smile!