Vitamin D Deficiency: How To Prevent It?
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which is also known by its chemical name calciferol. This is naturally present only in a few foods. Our body can also synthesize vitamin D in the presence of ultraviolet rays of sunlight. When Ultraviolet rays of sun falls on our skin, it triggers the vitamin D synthesis. The vitamin D obtained from either sun exposure, food source is biologically inert. So, it must undergo two hydroxylation reactions.
Functions Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial for the development of the body. Following are some important functions of vitamin D:
1. Absorption of Calcium
It promotes the absorption of calcium in the gut and helps to maintain proper concentration of calcium and phosphate to enable normal bone mineralization. It also prevents hypocalcemia tetany. Vitamin D is also required for bone growth and remodeling of bone by osteoclasts and osteoblast. This is also known to avoid the problem of rickets in the children. Also, due to inadequate vitamin D, bone may become thin, brittle or misshapen. It is also known to prevent osteoporosis in older adults.
2. Reduction of inflammation
Vitamin D also reduces inflammation. It also plays an important role in cell growth, neuromuscular and immune functions.
3. Reduction of diseases
People that live in sunnier climates are less susceptible to certain types of diseases. There is a reduced risk of cancer, heart diseases and type 2 diabetes in the people with higher concentration of vitamin D. Studies suggest that people with lower levels of vitamins have increased incidence of cancer. Also studies show that vitamin D reduces the risk of coronavirus.
Major Sources Of vitamin D
Our body can create vitamin D directly from the sunlight. From late March/early April to the end of September, our body can synthesize vitamin D. But in between October to early March we cannot make enough vitamin D from direct sunlight.
Naturally, vitamin D is present in a number of meats and animal products, but vegans only have fewer options for getting enough vitamin D in their diet. Here are some great options for vegans to get enough vitamin D:
Mushrooms are some of the most loved vegan foods for vitamin D. Specifically, they contain vitamin D2.
✓Fortified Orange Juice
Many popular orange juices are fortified with vitamin D. They also often contain important minerals, such as calcium.
Most commercial cereals found on the market are generally fortified with a variety different vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D
Daily Requirement Of Vitamin D?
The daily requirement of vitamin D varies according to the age of the person. People of different age groups require different amounts of vitamin D. Generally, children of age 1 year and adult require 10 microgram of vitamin D a day whereas the babies upto the age of 1 year require about 8.5 to 10 microgram of vitamin D per day.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Deficiency refers to the state of being deficient. It is the state that does not meet the required standard. People usually show vitamin D deficiency when the intakes are low or higher than the recommended levels. They also have the deficiency of vitamin D when the exposure to the sunlight is limited. Also, people show deficiency of vitamin D when the absorption of vitamin D from the digestive tract is inadequate. Lactose intolerance and people following the vegan diet usually have lower vitamin D concentration in their body.
Vitamin D deficiency in children results in rickets. Rickets is characterized by failure of bone tissue to become properly mineralized and hence it results in soft bones and other forms of skeletal deformities. These deformities are also associated with pain. Apart from rickets, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with hypocalcemic seizures, cardiomyopathy, tetanic spasms and dental abnormalities. Prolonged breastfeeding without vitamin D supplement is the primary cause of rickets in infants. Rickets has been found to disproportionately affect Black children born with low birth weight who breastfeed for a long time, causing them to weigh less and have shorter heights on average.
In adults vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia. Osteomalacia is the process of softening of bones. Our body requires calcium to maintain the strength and hardiness of the bone. In the absence of vitamin D, our body is unable to absorb the required amount of calcium and hence results in softening of bones. The associated symptoms are joint pain, weakness and pain in muscles, bones become brittle and muscle cramp.
Groups Prone To Vitamin D Deficiency
As we know that there are only a few sources that naturally contain vitamin D. So, obtaining vitamin D from a natural source alone is difficult. Having a vitamin D fortified diet and exposing ourselves to sunlight are essential for maintaining vitamin D status in our body. However some groups are highly vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency. Following are the some age group that are highly vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency:
1. Breastfeeding infants
Human milk provides less than 0.6 to 2.o mcg/L of vitamin D. Thus consumption of vitamin D alone cannot supply an adequate amount of vitamin D. Thus the child with prolonged breastfeeding without any supplementary diet is prone to vitamin D deficiency. The vitamin D content of human milk is directly related with the vitamin D concentration in the mother’s body. Mothers who take daily supplements with at least 50 mcg vitamin D have higher levels of vitamin D concentration in their milk.
2. Older Adults
The grown up adults are vulnerable to vitamin D deficiency. One major reason behind their increased vulnerability is due to the loss of skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D with age. The ability of skin to synthesize vitamin D declines with age. The other reason is that the older people spend most of their time indoors playing with the young ones. Another probable reason behind this is consumption of a diet with less nutrient content.
3. Limited sunlight exposure
People with limited sunlight exposure are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency. Most housebound individuals are at high risk of vitamin D inadequacy problems. Use of sunscreen also limits the use of vitamin D synthesis from sunlight.
4. People having dark skin
Higher melanin content in the skin is supposed to reduce the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sunlight. Darker skin has higher melanin content. Thus, darker skin results in lower ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sunlight.
5. People with obesity
People with obesity have lower vitamin D levels than the people without vitamin D. However, obesity does not affect the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D. So, people with obesity require higher intake of vitamin D than the people without obesity.
6. Pregnant women
Vitamin D requirement increases during pregnancy. Since during pregnancy, it is difficult to say whether it is safe to use supplements or not. If not provided with the supplement, they may suffer from vitamin D deficiency and may give birth to young ones with low birth weight and severe bleeding after delivery.
How To Overcome Vitamin D Deficiency?
The additional requirement of vitamin D depends upon several factors. Among these several factors, their age, Ultraviolet exposure, diet and health status are the major factors. The additional requirement can be predicted from blood tests. On the basis of the result from diagnosis, doctors can recommend increasing the vitamin D intake. Based on your age, doctor can recommend following dose:
✓0-12 months: 10 micrograms
✓1-70 years: 15 micrograms
✓71 years and over: 20 micrograms
Some people have to take supplements if Vitamin D concentration in their body is very low. However, before taking supplements, you have to visit the doctors and take their advice. The doctor will recommend suitable dosage as per their requirement.
As previously mentioned, we also obtain vitamin D by exposing ourselves to the sun. Our body is able to synthesize vitamin D from ultraviolet rays of the sun. Since, people with limited exposure to sunlight are prone to vitamin D deficiency. So, housebound people should increase their exposure to sunlight.
How To Prevent Vitamin D Deficiency?
Consuming foods that are rich in nutrients is the best way to prevent vitamin D deficiency. Also, people have to spend more time outside. Following are the some strategies that you have to adopt to avoid vitamin D deficiency:
1. Maintain healthy body weight
Excessive high and low weight are harmful to health. Regular exercise is required to maintain appropriate body weight.
2. Follow preventive methods
Prevention is better than control. So, you have to follow preventive methods like consuming foods with high vitamin D content, exposing yourself to sunlight are some of the preventive methods.
3. Treat the health abnormalities
People with health abnormalities show vitamin deficiency. So, it is better to treat these health abnormalities to increase the absorption of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is crucial for the growth and development of the body. Deficiency of vitamin D induces several problems like rickets, osteomalacia etc. We can get vitamin D from different sources. There are few natural foods that have vitamin D. Mushrooms, Orange Juice, Tofu are a rich source of vitamin D. Our body can synthesize vitamin D from ultraviolet rays. So, you should expose yourself to sunlight to meet vitamin D requirements. Some people also require supplements to meet their vitamin D requirement. Breastfeeding infants, pregnant women, grown up adults and people with limited sun;ight exposure are more prone to vitamin D deficiency. We should follow preventive measures to avoid vitamin D deficiency.