< Back to all blog posts

The low down on Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in food and can also be manufactured in the body from exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.  A lot of vitamin that we get comes from exposure from the sun because ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. 

There are several forms of Vitamin D, each with their own level of activity.  The most active form of Vitamin D is Calciferol.  Other forms are relatively inactive in the body.  Vitamin D is converted to its hormone form with help from the liver and kidneys.  Vitamin D needs to be chemically converted by the liver or kidneys once it is produced in the skin or consumed in our food to 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D, the physiologically active form of vitamin D. The active form of vitamin D functions as a hormone because it sends messages to the intestines to increase absorption of calcium and phosphorus. 

            Vitamin D’s major role in the body is to maintain and regulate normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.  By promoting calcium absorption, vitamin D helps to form and maintain strong bones.  Without vitamin D, bones can thin, brittle or misshapen.  Rickets in children and osteomalacia (softening of the bones) in adults are the result of vitamin D deficiency.  These are two forms of skeletal diseases that weaken bones.  There has been research that also suggests that vitamin D may help maintain a healthy immune system and help regulate cell growth and differentiation.  Differentiation is the process which determines what cell is going to become, therefore cancer prevention is a function of vitamin D. 

              Dairy products such as cheese, butter, cream and milk are rich in vitamin D; as well as fish, oysters and cereals.  In order to receive an adequate amount of vitamin D from the sun for your body, a period of ten to fifteen minutes, 3 times a week is sufficient enough to meet the body’s requirement of vitamin D.  However, sunscreen blocks ultraviolet-B rays, which the body needs to make vitamin D. 

            Vitamin D deficiency can cause a variety of serious health disorders such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and ovarian, breast and colon cancers.  Osteoporosis and osteomalacia can also result from vitamin D deficiency; Calcium and bone density are both negatively affected by lack of vitamin D.  The body cannot absorb calcium without a proper intake of vitamin D no matter how much calcium you take!  Rickets in children is the most classic of vitamin D deficiency diseases.  Rickets is a bone disease characterized by a failure to properly mineralize bone tissue.  Rickets results in soft bones and skeletal deformities.

            Exposure to sunlight for at least 10-15 minutes a day can drastically reduce your risk of colon and breast cancer, a study has shown.  Researchers from the Moore’s CancerCenter at the University of California, San Diego, estimated that by increasing vitamin D levels, particularly in countries north of the equator, 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer, and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide.  It is the first study to take satellite measurements of sunshine and cloud cover in the same countries where blood serum levels of vitamin D had also been taken.  Here’s what researchers found: There’s an inverse association between serum vitamin D and the risk of colorectal and breast cancers.  In other words, the higher your vitamin D level, the lower the risk of these two cancers.  The beneficial effect began at a range of 24 to 32 ng/ml of vitamin D concentration in the serum.  Although, during the winter months in the United States, the average vitamin D serum level is only at about 15-18 ng/ml, the increase intake of vitamin D from foods could easily raise the serum level thus preventing disease.