Vitamin D, AKA the “sunshine vitamin,” is comprised of a family of compounds including vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3.
The reason Vitamin D is so closely linked to the sun is that we actually produce this vitamin naturally through our skin when it responds to sunlight! This is one of the big reasons why we’re often encouraged to “go out and get some sun,” as children. The connection to the sun is so strong that it is common for higher amounts of Vitamin D to be suggested in winter months compared to summer months depending on one’s geographical location.
Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to a host of health problems, especially in children. When young kids are significantly lacking in Vitamin D, they are susceptible to developing skeletal deformities, brittle bones, and frequent fractures. A deficiency in childhood can also lead to osteomalacia or osteoporosis later in life. In adults, a lack of the vitamin can cause muscle weakness, pain, fatigue, and depression.
Most people associate our bone health with calcium, but vitamin D is actually an important, and often forgotten about, nutrient in this calculation. Calcium and vitamin D work together to protect your bones. Calcium’s job is to help build and maintain bones, whereas vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. So even if you’re taking in enough calcium, if you’re deficient in vitamin D, you aren’t actually absorbing the calcium.
We are able to consume some of our recommended intake of Vitamin D through what we eat. Fatty fish, fortified foods such as some milk and yogurts (and even orange juice), cheese, and egg yolks all contain a decent amount of Vitamin D. Although it is not usually possible to meet the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D through food only, eating foods high in the vitamin is just one way we can help support our body’s needs.
In many countries, it is difficult to achieve high enough doses of Vitamin D even with a combination of the foods mentioned above, plus sunlight. Supplements allow us to ensure that we are consuming enough of the sunshine vitamin on a regular basis to keep us healthy. Opinions on what the ideal number of IU’s of Vitamin D per day is varied, however many highly respected institutions and medical professionals recommend that children and adults under 70 require at least 600 IUD’s per day, and adults above 70 should add 200 to that number. However, research on Vitamin D has revealed that taking significantly higher doses than mentioned above is also considered extremely safe – it is even commonly recommended to those who live in geographical locations that have limited sunlight in the winter to take 3000-4000 IU’s a day. In contrast, only around 1000 IU’s may be suggested in the summer, since our skin will be doing its thing to help us out too!