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Vitamin D: what it does and why you need it

Historically, we have associated Vitamin D with bones. This underestimated vitamin does much more than that!

What it is:

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin (requires fat to be absorbed) derived from cholesterol that is primarily sourced from the UV rays of the sun hitting our skin, and activated by our liver and kidneys. Therefore, it is technically not an essential nutrient, as our body has the ability to create this vitamin. However, as many of us live in areas of the world where sunlight is not available year round, it is important to ensure adequate intake from other sources.

What it does:

Vitamin D is necessary for innumerable bodily functions, including but not limited to:

- Maintaining bone health. Vitamin D is part of bone matrix

- Immune function. Vitamin D receptors are found on immune cells, and regulate the innate and adaptive immune responses

- DNA regulation: via cell growth, cell differentiation, cell death

- Calcium absorption: Vitamin D is needed for calcium to be absorbed in the gut and regulation in the kidneys

- Mood regulation

What was once thought of a supporter for bone matrix is now understood to have a huge impact on many facets of vital bodily functions. As research grows, we continue to see the far reaches of this vitamin on our health and wellbeing.

Where to get it:

Good sources include-

- The sun. A minimum of 15 minutes in the sun (with low/no SPF) was found to be equivalent to a dose of 1000 IU of Vitamin D. However, this differs by race. Those with darker skin tones need longer time in the sun as melanin is a protective measure against UV damage. It is for this reason that individuals with darker skin tones may find themselves at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, as it takes longer time in the sun to receive a dose of Vitamin D.

- Liver. The liver stores vitamin D in many animals.

- Sun dried mushrooms.

- Fortified dairy

- Egg yolks

- Supplements

COVID19 Special Note:

As mentioned before, Vitamin D is critical for optimal immune function. New evidence is showing that this continues to be true in COVID19 cases, with a study noting that vitamin D status is associated with virus outcome. This means that individuals who had lower levels of vitamin D fared worse with COVID than those with higher levels of vitamin D. While this does not establish a causal relationship (low vitamin D = worse infection), it does show a significant association.


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