Health Vitamin D is known for its abilities to reduce risk of heart diseases, cancer and multiple sclerosis. All you need to do is get outdoors and soak in the sunshine
Sunshine vitamin or Vitamin D, which is manufactured in our body when our skin is exposed to the sun, is popularly known for its muscle strengthening and bone building properties. But lately, studies have shown that Vitamin D has multifaceted functions. Getting appropriate Vit D (or sunlight) reduces risk of heart diseases and diabetes, protects against and betters prognosis for colorectal cancer and TB, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and even wards off the flu!
The 25-hydroxy Vitamin D blood test can tell you if you are deficient or not. Levels over 30 nanograms/millilitre are termed sufficient. (One nanogram is one billionth of a gram).
Vitamin D deficiency risk group
Even though the body can make Vitamin D from sunlight, very few people actually expose themselves to direct sunlight, what with all the sunscreens, staying indoors or covering up to protect the skin against the sun or harsh cold. Those who are especially prone to deficiency are the elderly. People over 65 years make only a quarter of the vitamin than those who are in their twenties. Obese people who have BMI (body mass index) of over 30 too don’t make enough.
Those with dark skin tones and those who have fat malabsorption due to cystic fibrosis, celiac or Crohn’s disease, or bowel surgeries are prone to Vit D deficiency. Patients with liver or kidney disease, those taking glucocorticoids, who are home bound or live in a/c rooms (glass panes block UVB rays) and those who live in the northern latitude fall into the risk group. Vegetarians too run the risk of deficiency as animal foods are a major source of Vitamin D.
Just 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to the direct sun on our limbs will provide us most of the required Vitamin D. Unfortunately, pollution, cloudy sky and seasons with less sunshine could act against acquiring sufficient ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that create Vitamin D in our body.
How Vitamin D affects our health
The Health Professional Follow up Study of 50,000 healthy men monitored the Vitamin D level over a span of 10 years. It was found that those who had low level had twofold the risk of heart disease than those with adequate levels.
Separate studies on the same have shown sudden cardiac arrests, stroke and death in people with deficient levels of the vitamin. Children who play under the sun seem to have lesser incidence of respiratory infections.
Adults who don’t, seem to catch a cold more often.
A study on Finnish children over a span of 30 years found that those with Vitamin D deficiency were 90 per cent more at risk of developing Type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to both insulin resistance and impaired pancreatic secretion of insulin.
How to increase Vitamin D levels
Eating 3 and a half ounce of fatty fish gives 90 per cent of the recommended daily amount.
Mollusc, oyster, egg, sun dried shiitake mushrooms, dairy products, juices and breakfast cereals fortified with Vitamin D.
Walk or sport under the sun for just 10 minutes daily without using sunscreen.
Vitamin D as supplementation. 800 – 1000 IU /day or as recommended by physician.
PARVATHY R. KRISHNAN
(The author is a nutritionist)