Recently, vitamin D has gotten a lot of press as researchers are discovering more and more reasons why you should be taking vitamin D. In fact, recommended doses of vitamin D have been overhauled, as clinicians discovered benefits to having higher levels of the “sunshine vitamin.” So, what is vitamin D? Why is it so important to our overall health and preventative medicine?
What is vitamin D?
Many people would be surprised to learn that vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin at all. It’s a hormone that is made in our skin when we get adequate exposure to sunlight, which is why it’s often called “the sunshine vitamin.” However, this hormone is often referred to as a vitamin, because, like other vitamins, it’s essential to good health, but our bodies can’t produce it in sufficient quantities on its own, so we must get it from other sources, like sunshine, foods, or supplements.
What does vitamin D do?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble hormone that functions as a steroid hormone. Steroid hormones play an important role in the life of cells and genes. Being deficient in any hormone may cause problems, and vitamin D is no exception. Inadequate levels of vitamin D have been shown to cause bone softening, or osteomalacia (often referred to as “rickets” when it occurs in children). This condition may result in weak bones, bone pain, muscle weakness, easy fracturing, and a host of other problems associated with the muscoloskeletal system.
In addition to preventing osteomalacia, vitamin D has also been shown to combat a number of other conditions. Having adequate levels of vitamin D may:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Help prevent osteoporosis
- Reduce your risk of some cancers
- Promote a good immune system
- Help fight depression and seasonal affective disorder
- Combat type II diabetes
And other benefits are being researched every day!
Are you getting enough vitamin D?
Based on the body’s indicated daily vitamin D usage, Vitamin D Council recommends the following amounts of supplemental vitamin D3 per day in the absence of proper sun exposure. Due to the variable response, these are only estimated amounts.
- Healthy children under the age of 1 years – 1,000 IU.
- Healthy children over the age of 1 years – 1,000 IU per every 25 lbs of body weight.
- Healthy adults and adolescents – at least 5,000 IU.
- Pregnant and lactating mothers – at least 6,000 IU.
Additionally, children and adults with chronic health conditions such as autism, MS, cancer, heart disease, or obesity may need as much as double these amounts. CarePro recommends that they be tested to see where their levels of 25 hydroxyvitamin D are before going above 10,000 IU daily.