Vitamin D: The “Sunshine” Vitamin
Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol is one of two forms of vitamin D. Both vitamin D2 and D3 need to be converted first by the liver and then by the kidneys into the main form of vitamin D, however, D3 appears to be more effective at raising levels of active vitamin D than D2, which is why it is more highly recommended by healthcare providers.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in various foods and supplements which can also be made by the body when the skin is exposed to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Vitamin D is the only vitamin out of all 13 essential vitamins that the body can manufacture on its own. Many people, however, become deficient in vitamin D because they don’t get enough sunshine. This is why vitamin D is often known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the body’s main source of vitamin D is the sun.
Vitamin D Deficiency is Common
If you work inside or live in a cooler climate, however, you may not be getting all the vitamin D you need. Simply wearing sunscreen can prevent your body from getting all the vitamin D it needs. To make matters worse, as you age your skin’s ability to manufacture vitamin D from the sun diminishes.
“Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have a vitamin D deficiency. This pandemic of hypovitaminosis D can mainly be attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors that reduce exposure to sunlight, which is required for ultraviolet-B (UVB)-induced vitamin D production in the skin.” (1)
One of the many roles of vitamin D is to promote calcium absorption, allowing for proper bone mineralization and growth. It also has other diverse roles throughout the body, including the reduction of inflammation, metabolizing glucose, and supporting immune function.
Vitamin D also plays a vital role in supporting neuromuscular function. The body’s neuromuscular system includes the brain’s signaling system, from muscles to nerves. This communication system is important for the body’s coordinated movement. It is important that as we age, we maintain a healthy neuromuscular system through good nutrition and exercise.
Most experts recommend 600 to 800 IUs of vitamin D per day.