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Vitamins & Minerals

Vitamins are organic substances, which means they’re made by plants or animals. Minerals are inorganic elements that come from soil and water, and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. Your body needs larger amounts of some minerals, such as calcium, to grow and stay healthy.

These micronutrients are not produced in our bodies and must be derived from the food we eat.

Vitamins are organic substances that are generally classified as either fat soluble or water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K) dissolve in fat and tend to accumulate in the body. Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins, such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate) must dissolve in water before they can be absorbed by the body, and therefore cannot be stored. Any water-soluble vitamins unused by the body is primarily lost through urine.

Minerals are inorganic elements present in soil and water, which are absorbed by plants or consumed by animals. While you’re likely familiar with calcium, sodium, and potassium, there is a range of other minerals, including trace minerals (e.g. copper, iodine, and zinc) needed in very small amounts.

treatment for vitamin d deficiency

TREATMENT FOR VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY

Vitamin D deficiency affects people of all ages. Last time we analyzed in detail how a deficiency of this vitamin affects our health. This time we will talk about natural and medical treatment for vitamin D deficiency.

This article was last reviewed by Svetlana Baloban, Healsens, on October 24, 2020. This article was last modified on 29 October 2020.

Let us start with how we define vitamin D deficiency.

In summary, a deficiency occurs when the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level is less than 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/L)12.

If your serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level is between 20 and 30 ng/ml (50 to 75 nmol/liter), then we are talking about vitamin D insufficiency.

Values of less than 10 ng/ml refer to severe vitamin D deficiency. We will analyze the approach to treat this deficiency separately.

Treatment for vitamin D deficiency

Sunbathing, which we wrote about last time, is a great way of treating vitamin D deficiency. Another way to increase vitamin D levels in the body is food. In spite of the fact that food will not give you as much vitamin D as the sunlight, when combined with sun exposure it will work quite well. So make sure that your winter and summer diet includes oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), egg yolks, cheese, liver, as well as enriched dairy and cereal-grain products.

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In addition to sunbathing, those who have a lack of vitamin D (especially with critical numbers, when 25 (OH) D is less than 20 ng/ml) are advised to take vitamin D as a supplement. It should be said that an increase of 25(OH)D levels through dietary intake is quite individual.

How much vitamin D should I take if I’m deficient?

So, the amount of vitamin D needed to treat a deficiency depends largely on the degree of the deficiency and the underlying risk factors.

Initial supplementation with Vitamin D3 for 8 weeks, either 6,000 IU daily or 50,000 IU weekly, can be considered34. When the vitamin level exceeds 30 ng/ml, the daily maintenance dose will be 1000 to 2000 IU.

Higher-risk adults may require higher starting doses of vitamin D3. These people include African Americans, Hispanics, people with obesity, chronic illness, and taking certain medications. Typically, your doctor may prescribe 10,000 IU of vitamin per day. For such people, maintenance doses can range from 3000 to 6000 IU / day. So if you are at risk, it is better to discuss the treatment with your doctor. This is due to the fact that for some diseases, an individual approach to the dosage of vitamin D is required.

It is recommended that both D2 and D3 be taken with a diet containing fat to ensure maximum absorption.

Don’t be surprised if it will take you half a year or more to achieve the optimum levels of this vitamin. Furthermore, when the desired level of vitamin D is achieved, to sustain it you will need to take 1000-2000 ME a day and regularly control its level to prevent its overaccumulation in your body. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is considered to be more effective than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), although some recent studies have proven them equally effective.  

The dosage of vitamin D to correct severe vitamin D deficiency (<10 ng/mL)

Although not validated by clinical trials, a commonly applied strategy is to prescribe a “loading dose”. For example, 50,000 IU of vitamin D orally once weekly for 2-3 months, or 3 times weekly for 1 month5.

On the other hand, treatment regimen studies have shown that a minimum total dose of 600,000 IU was most effective in achieving vitamin D sufficiency6.

The study examined the following common treatment regimens, namely:

  • 50,000 IU of D2 once weekly for 4 weeks followed by 50,000 IU once monthly for 5 months;
  • D2 50,000 IU once monthly for 6 months;
  • D2 50,000 IU 3 times weekly for 6 weeks.

Regimens where vitamin D2 intake> 600,000 IU administered over an average of 60 +/- 40 days provided the best option without vitamin D toxicity.

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Maintenance Dose of Vitamin D

The recommended concentrations of 25(OH)D vary from 30 to 60 ng/mL. There is currently no evidence that values of 61-100 ng/mL provide health benefits. Along with taking preventing and maintaining doses, it is advisable to test your 25(OH)D in blood every 6-12 months. First of all, this recommendation is associated with a risk of falling below the levels of vitamin D. For example, some studies suggest that a maintenance dose of 2,000 IU of vitamin D may not be sufficient7.

It’s worth noting that in order to prevent vitamin D deficiency people aged 18-50 should receive 600-800 ME a day, those older than 50 – as much as 800-1000 ME a day. It is not recommended to prescribe more than 10,000 ME a day for a long period (more than 6 months) without medical supervision and control. Due to its lipophilicity, its accumulation in fat tissue may result in vitamin D becoming toxic.

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digestive disorders

DIGESTIVE DISORDERS CAUSES: PART 1

The food you choose has a major impact on your health and life expectancy1. However, it is not only the quality of products which is important, it is also important how well they are absorbed. So let’s take a look at the most common causes of digestive disorders. Unfortunately, the article is longer than we planned. First, because it contains most common disorders. Secondly, in addition to describing the problems, we also explain how to improve digestion.

This article was last reviewed by Svetlana Baloban, Healsens, on January 24, 2020. This article was last modified on 15 October 2020.

If you think that digestive disorders are an inevitable part of our life, then you should know that this is far from the case. Like many chronic diseases, they can result from inappropriate habits. For example, think about proper nutrition and related digestive disorders. This is important, since gastrointestinal disorders are far from uncommon! More than 40% of people worldwide suffer from them2. The magnitude of the problem is also reflected in the ever-increasing consumption of over-the-counter gastrointestinal drugs to relieve the symptoms of digestive disorders3.

So, some digestive disorders can be inherited, others acquired. So, genetic defects include lactose intolerance, which means inability to digest milk sugar. The celiac disease also needs be mentioned, although the disease is not inherited. However, susceptibility to its development can also be inherited. Note that celiac disease is a multifactorial disease. This means that several genes at once interact with environmental factors to cause it.

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Most ailments occur due to the additional stress that our digestive system experiences as a result of poor nutrition. On the one hand, certain supplements or medications help to cope with the problem. On the other hand, healthy eating is still the most important thing for restoring and maintaining healthy digestion.

Digestive disorder causes

There’s nothing new in the fact that one’s diet provides nutrition needed for energy, growth, and recovery. But apart from that, it also affects and regulates several important functions of the body. For example, proportions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats control the type and amount of gastrointestinal hormones released into the bloodstream. These hormones regulate gastrointestinal motility, secretion and absorption, cell proliferation, appetite, and local immune defenses. Furthermore, the gastrointestinal hormonal peptides/amines interact and integrate with the enteric, autonomic, and central nervous systems (gut-brain axis)4. Food intake also affects the gut microbiota. Microbiota, in turn, plays an important role in health and disease. In general, food makes many stops during the digestion process, which can potentially be disrupted.

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Improper food chewing

Children often are told to take their time and chew food well. And this makes sense! Improper chewing of food puts additional stress on the gastrointestinal tract. This is due to the need for an increased amount of digestive juices, which will be required to break down large pieces of food. This can cause gas and bloating. And in the future, it can lead to more serious problems in the digestive system. Therefore, you should chew slowly, enjoy the taste, and chew each bite thoroughly.

In addition, the number of teeth also affects the chewing quality. So, for example, a number of studies have confirmed that the more teeth, the better a person can chew and the more he does not consume foods rich in fiber, vitamins, folic acid, calcium and protein5. Difficulty in chewing fiber rich foods can be associated with increased risk of systemic illness, such as cardiovascular disease, and with oral diseases, such as oropharyngeal cancer6.

Therefore, we should take care of our teeth and enjoy our food, chewing it thoroughly. So, you will have more pleasure and the gastrointestinal tract will be grateful to you.

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Vitamin B12 deficiency

When food enters the stomach, an intrinsic factor (IF) is released. The intrinsic factor (IF) is a glycoprotein that plays a crucial role in the transportation and absorption of vitamin B12.

Insufficient release of intrinsic factor (IF), can result in deficiency of this vitamin. If such a disbalance is not eliminated, it can lead to adverse events. These include such disorders as anemia, overwork, tingling or numbness of fingers and toes, imbalance, depression, and even dementia.

Inadequate excretion of this element may be corrected with supplements containing IF and vitamin B12. Remember that vitamin B12 coming in from outside loses its properties in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it is recommended to be taken in the form of injections or sublingual tablets.

Helicobacter Pylori

Another problem that can appear during digestion is the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a bacterium that infects up to 50% of the world’s population7. H. pylori can disrupt the delicate balance between highly acidic gastric juice and mucus. Therefore, they are the most important cause of chronic or atrophic gastritis, peptic ulcer disease, lymphoma, and gastric carcinoma. Typically, this H. pylori infection is acquired in early childhood and persists without treatment. It should be added that the majority of children with H. pylori infection are asymptomatic. And if any symptoms are present, they are usually associated with gastritis or ulcer disease.

Furthermore, the presence of Helicobacter may be associated with anemia. Thus, it has been documented that those infected with H. pylori have lower iron stores8. So, if there are any concerns, the doctor may suggest a Helicobacter pylori antibody blood test.

Lactose intolerance

We have already mentioned above about lactose intolerance. Now we will dwell on its specifics in more detail. So, lactose intolerance is a clinical syndrome that manifests itself with characteristic signs and symptoms when using lactose, a disaccharide. Usually, when lactose is consumed, it is hydrolyzed to glucose and galactose by the enzyme lactase. Lactase deficiency leads to clinical symptoms such as nausea, colic, gas and diarrhea. The severity of the disease varies from person to person.

In many people, the amount of lactase produced decreases with age9. In addition to the age factor, injury to intestinal mucosa due to several infectious, inflammatory or other diseases can cause secondary lactase deficiency. And this condition is not rare! Thus, 50 million US residents are lactose intolerant.

Treatment mainly consists of avoiding lactose-containing foods, which are:

  • Soft and processed cheese
  • Buttermilk
  • Cream
  • Milk
  • Ice cream
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Custard and pudding

Lactase containing milk products and calcium supplements are recommended instead. Many people also solve this problem by taking lactase while taking dairy products. Lactase enzyme supplements contain lactase, which breaks down lactose in milk and dairy products. These supplements come in the form of tablets or drops of the lactase enzyme10.

👉 Next time we will look at the causes of digestive disorders such as hypochlorhydria, leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome!

And finally, it is important to follow the dietary recommendations! Keep in mind that a lot of digestive disorders are primarily caused by a poor diet.

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vitamin a immune system

VITAMIN A HELPS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Vitamins are essential constituents of our diet that have been known to influence the immune system. But which vitamins have proven effective to help our immune system? Is a healthy diet enough? All these questions are constantly raised and become especially burning during epidemics. In turn, many studies test hypotheses and publish the results, sometimes breaking quite common myths. This time, to further expand on the topic of immunity health, we will review how vitamin A affects the immune system. We will also answer the question of how to check a deficiency / excess of this vitamin.

This article was last reviewed by Svetlana Baloban, Healsens, on February 23, 2020. This article was last modified on 22 February 2020.

To begin with, we note that vitamins cannot be sufficiently synthesized by our body and must come to us with food. So Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who won Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, said that “Vitamins and their metabolites are essential for a large number of physiological processes”. And that’s true. Vitamins and their metabolites are essential for a large number of physiological processes. They play an important role in the immune system, extending to both innate and adaptive immune responses

Vitamin A Helps Immune System

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Many people know that vitamin A is crucial for maintaining vision. And, of course, who has not heard that it is widely used in cosmetics?! Vitamin A turned out to be the first vitamin approved by the Food and Drug Administration as an anti-wrinkle agent.1. Thus, it confirmed its ability to change the appearance of the skin surface and has anti-aging effects.

However, its functions do not end there. So, it is crucial for promoting growth and development and protecting epithelium and mucus. Did you know that it’s also called an anti-inflammation vitamin? It has to do with its critical role in enhancing immune function. For this function, vitamin A should be referred to as the vitamin that helps our immune system.

In turn, vitamin A deficiency impairs innate immunity by impeding the regeneration of mucosal barriers damaged by infection. It’s not just that our innate immunity suffers, but vitamin A is also required for adaptive immunity2. In severe cases, the immune system is so weak that it cannot even cope with a common cold.

There are several reasons why vitamin A deficiency may develop. First of all, nutritional deficiencies can affect the lack of this vitamin. So, we obtain vitamin A through diet in two forms. Retinol and retinyl ester come from animal sources such as meat, dairy products, and fish. Provitamin A (beta-carotenoid) is derived from colorful fruits and vegetables. Insufficient intake of the vitamin with food may result in its deficiency.

Second, vitamin deficiency is associated with certain diseases, such as liver disorder. Moreover, infectious diseases transiently depress serum retinol concentrations. Zinc deficiency can also impair the absorption, transportation and metabolism of vitamin A.

Let’s see how often vitamin A deficiency occurs in people?

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Vitamin A Deficiency and Its Impact on the Immune System

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the single most important cause of childhood blindness in developing countries. Dietary surveys indicate that many US adults are not meeting dietary requirements for vitamin A3. According to their results, 51% of adults fall short of the Estimated Average Requirement.

But what about the situation in other countries? ? In 2018, a paper was published about vitamin A intake in China among 12,246 adults aged 18 to 64 years old. Approximately 87% of adults didn’t consume enough vitamin A4. Remarkably, retinol intake was significantly higher in younger adults compared to older adults, and in males compared to females.

Therefore, understanding the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency can be very helpful. So, classic symptoms include problems such as dry eyes and night blindness. Although eye problems are the most well-known issues related to vitamin A deficiency, this symptom may not be observed. Therefore, we consider other symptoms.

Dry skin also is suggestive of its deficiency but can be due to other causes. Moreover, poor wound healing, as well as acne, may indicate a problem of vitamin A.

To diagnose vitamin A deficiency, a serum vitamin A/retinol analysis is used. This lab test will be useful if levels are under 28 μg/dL. In this case, it will indicate an acute shortage. However, this analysis is not suitable if deficiency is mild. This is due to the fact that serum retinol concentrations don’t begin to decline in healthy individuals until liver reserves of vitamin A are dangerously low.

How is vitamin A deficiency treated and prevented?

In order to prevent vitamin A deficiency, it will be enough to include foods rich in vitamin A into your diet. Concentrations of preformed vitamin A are highest in liver and fish oils. Other sources of preformed vitamin A include such foods as:

  • Spinach, kale, collards, brocolli and other leafy green vegetables
  • Beta-carotene-rich fruits such as apricots, mango, and peaches, and highly-coloured vegetables such as carrots, squash, sweet potato
  • Milk or cereals enriched in vitamin A
  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fish liver oils

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 900 mcg and 700 mcg per day for men and women. So, one medium-sized raw carrot, weighing 61 g, contains 509 mcg RAE of vitamin A.

To talk about vitamin A deficiency, it treated with vitamin A palmitate oil. For such cases, a dosage of 60,000 IU is taken orally for 2 days. Then the dosage reduced to 4500 IU orally per day.

An alternative dosing is:

  • 50,000 IU for infants below 6 months of age
  • 100,000 IU for infants 6–12 months of age
  • 200,000 IU for 12 months through adulthood

Hypervitaminosis A or Vitamin A Toxicity

Vitamin A is fat-soluble. Therefore the body is able to accumulate it, mainly in the liver. Accordingly, its excessive consumption can lead to its excess, which is toxic (hypervitaminosis A). But do not worry that a regular diet can lead to such results. As already mentioned, a study of dietary preferences came to exactly opposite conclusion.

Nevertheless, excessive consumption of foods rich in vitamin A has been observed. For example, the authors of “Carrot man” tell a story of a 48-year-old male. The man complained to his primary care physician of abdominal discomfort and yellow/orange skin discoloration. It turned out that he ate 6-7 lb of carrots per week which lead to health problems. However, once he abandoned carrot diet, everything returned to norm within 1 month5. As for severe poisoning cases, it is known that researchers in the Arctic in the XIX died after they ate a polar bear liver rich in vitamin A.

To summarize, under normal conditions, an excess of vitamin A is not related to nutrition. As a rule, an excess is usually associated with the consumption of excessive amounts of vitamin A from supplements.

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недостаток цинка

EFFECT OF ZINC ON THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Immune response is the main mechanism of host defense against infections and pathogenic microbes, it helps to eliminate toxic or allergenic substances that enter our body through mucosal surfaces. So, the importance of immune response can hardly be overestimated. However, a wide range of factors can disrupt it. And by reason of it, it is so important to understand what exactly causes the failure. In this article, we will talk about the role of zinc in the immune system and this will open a series of articles on the topic of maintaining immunity.

This article was last reviewed by Svetlana Baloban, MD on 18 March 2020. This article was last modified on 7 February 2020.

How to boost the immune system

When talking about ways to strengthen our immune system, we cannot help recalling some general recommendations. Usually, general recommendations look exactly the same as those for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, namely:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
  • Try to minimize stress.

But the most effective means of preventing infection are still vaccines.

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Even though this list of general recommendations is non-exhaustive, these recommendations are universal and will work for everyone. And since you probably heard about them, we will talk about other factors that can negatively affect immunity. So, there is evidence that various micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies result in a weak immune system. These, for example, include vitamin A and vitamin D deficiencies, lack of zink, selenium, and others. As we have already said, we will begin our review with the effect of zinc on immunity. We will loop over the role of zinc in the immune system, talk about diagnostics and analyze treatment methods.

About Zinc

Zin is a mineral that’s important to the body in many ways. It is the second most abundant trace metal in the human body after iron. In contrast to the latter, zinc cannot be stored and has to be taken up via food daily to guarantee sufficient supply. So, it plays a role in cell division and growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. Zinc also provides normal brain functioning, improves memory, and mental performance. In addition, it contributes to maintaining healthy bones, skin, hair, nails.

Moreover, zinc is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory effect. This ability plays a role in the prevention of free-radical-induced injuries during inflammatory processes1.

Zinc and Immune System

But the functions of zinc in the body do not end there. Zinc deficiency, as well as zinc excess lead to a weak immune system, which can result in increased susceptibility to infections and the development of inflammatory diseases.

This is primarily due to the fact that zinc is crucial to normal development and functioning of cells which indirectly affect innate immunity, neutrophils and NK cells. Zinc deficiency also affects cells which absorb particles that are foreign or harmful to the body (macrophages). And in addition, zinc deficiency adversely affects the growth and function of major immune cells (T and B cells).

As far back as 1963, Dr. Prasad for the first time proved the existence of zinc deficiency. Since then, knowledge about zinc evolved rapidly. It has been proven that marginal-to-moderate zinc deficiency leads to a weak immune system, delays wound healing, and increases oxidative stress.

When zinc deficiency was first discovered, it was thought to be a rare disease. However, subsequent studies have found that zinc deficiency is very common, with an estimated two billion people worldwide being affected2. As for zinc excess, it needs to be said, that it is quite rare. As a rule, its symptoms are mostly due to copper deficiency.

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Zinc Deficiency Symptoms

As it was already mentioned above, the lack of zinc is a fairly frequent phenomenon. In addition, it especially affects industrial countries and the elderly. Therefore, let’s look at its indirect and direct signs that can be determined.

The first symptom of zinc deficiency is a weak immune system. So, if you often catch a cold or are susceptible to chronic allergies, it may be a sign of zinc deficiency.

Diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome may also indicate a lack of zinc. And besides, deterioration of the skin, nails, and hair can mean a deficiency of this trace element. Lack of zinc can cause significant hair loss. Worsening night vision, decreased mood, sleep disturbances, and decreased appetite are also noted.

Vegetarians are more likely to have trouble getting enough zinc than others. This is due to the fact that they exclude meat from the diet, while meat is a good source of zinc. For such people, it would be useful to consider foods high in zinc. For example, you can vary your diet with pumpkin seeds, which can be added to any dishes, or almonds (see the full list of high products in zinc below).

Also, alcoholic beverages decrease the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increase the amount lost in the urine.

In addition, studies reveal that nutritional deficiency of zinc is caused by high consumption of cereals, legumes, and oilseeds. They are all rich in phytate, which makes zinc unavailable for absorption.

Diagnosis

To date, no specific and reliable biomarker of zinc status is known. Nonetheless, serum/plasma zinc concentrations can be seen as potentially useful. Unfortunately, this test is far from ideal, as some elderly people were subject to an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines (zinc depletion factor) at normal plasma levels of zinc. That is why doctors can offer additional tests to show the content of zinc in the hair or its content in the urine. He may also suggest researching your diet to see how much zinc comes with food. But be as it may, a laboratory blood test for zinc is readily available, inexpensive, and good for primary diagnosing.

Lab Test for Zinc Deficiency

Reference Range (mcg/mL) for the age of 11 years old: 0.66 – 1.10 mcg/mL

Foods High in Zinc

A wide variety of foods contain zinc. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

It’s worth remembering that the bioavailability of zinc from grains is low because of phytates—which we already discussed earlier. Thus, animal foods will provide better sources of zinc.

The current recommended dietary requirements for zinc are as follows:

  • 11 mg for men
  • 8 mg for women, and 11 mg for pregnant women. It is recommended to receive as much as 12 mg of zinc during lactation.

An intake below these ranges can only be seen as an indicator of potential zinc deficiency because many other factors also play a role in decreased zinc intake3. Here’s a comparative table of foods with the highest zinc content.

FoodMilligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent*
Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces74.0672
Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces7.067
Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces6.559
Pine nut, 3 ounces6.4558
Sunflower seeds, 3 ounces545
Eggs, 3 ounces3.128
Almond, 3 ounces2.724
Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces2.421
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces1.715
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce1.210
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce0.97
Chicken breast, roasted, skin removed, ½ breast0.97
Peas, green, frozen, cooked, ½ cup0.54.5
Flounder or sole, cooked, 3 ounces0.32.7

*11 mg of zinc per day was taken as the calculation of the norm

Zinc Supplements

In dietary supplements, zinc is present in the forms of zinc picolinate, zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate. It is noteworthy that several studies indicate that zinc picolinate has the highest bioavailability as opposed to the other form.

And finally, if the supplementation seems to be the most acceptable option, keep in mind that prolonged zink intake in high concentrations may cause copper deficiency.

Be healthy!

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vitamin D

VITAMIN D FUNCTION AS THE OVERALL HEALTH HORMONE

Modern books on wellness management often mention Vitamin D. It is commonly called overall health hormone1. And it makes sense! Vitamin d function is to help prevent chronic diseases and affect people’s longevity in general. Meanwhile, vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups, have its deficiency. That is and why sustaining its optimum level is critically important for your health.  

What is unique about vitamin D is that we don’t only get with food but can also produce it in our body by being exposed to sunlight. It plays a major role in keeping bones healthy, therefore it insufficiency can lead to child rickets, and adult malacosteon (bone softening) and osteoporosis (bone loss). But this vitamin’s role is not limited to this function.

Role of Vitamin D

Some recent studies have shown that it sufficiency is also associated with lower risks of getting diabetes milletus, multilocular sclerosis, cardiovascular diseases2, and tuberculosis3.

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Besides, it is vital for a healthy immune system4. Without sufficient its amount our immune cells cannot properly react to threats, making our body more vulnerable to infections. In addition, vitamin D affects both inborn and acquired immunity.

It’s worth mentioning that vitamin D has anti-cancer effect for various types of cancer5. Emerging research supports the possible role of it against cancer, fractures and falls, autoimmune diseases6, influenza, type-2 diabetes, and depression. That’s why many health care providers have increased their recommendations for vitamin D supplementation to at least 1000 IU7. So, a meta-analysis published in 2007 showed that this supplementation was associated with significantly reduced mortality.

By now we have received the evidence of an increased risk of prostate and endometrium cancer, esophageal, stomach and pancreatic cancer, bladder and renal cancer, Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma caused by vitamin D deficit.

It is remarkable that randomized double-blind examination shows significant 60% decrease in general oncological risk among postmenopausal women who were treated with vitamin D and calcium, as opposed to those who received placebo treatment during 4 years of observation8. The studies show the optimum 25 (OH)D in blood serum for cancer prevention to be 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmoles/L).

In addition, lower levels of vitamin D adjusted for BMI are also associated with an increased risk of hypertension9. Therefore, given the relatively safe and inexpensive route of vitamin D supplementation, some studies recommend prescribing vitamin D to hypertensive patients who fall below the target.

Chronic fatigue, low spirits may also be caused by vitamin D insufficiency. Besides, muscle weakness is considered a clear indicator of its clinical deficiency. Clinical symptoms of myopathy deficiency include proximal muscle weakness, diffusive muscle pains, and balance disorder. It also reduces age-related and general inflammations, which is critically important for cognitive function retention.

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How to Measure Vitamin D Levels

Your vitamin D can be tested in a blood test which measures its content (25-OH vitamin D). 25(OH)D is the main metabolite of it in the blood. Two main forms of 25(OH)D are cholecalciferol (D3) and ergocalciferol (D2). D3 is mainly formed in our skin under ultra-violet rays, while the source of D2 is food. Significantly, 25(OH)D concentration is made up of these two components, both forms are measured equimolarly. 25(OH)D is considered the best indicator of vitamin D in the body.  

Sun Exposure and Vitamin D

As mentioned above, you can get enough vitamin D in daily sun exposure. It happens because sunlight enables our body to synthesize it from cholesterol. To achieve this effect, some scientists recommend exposing about a third of your skin to the sun. This means that for most fair-skinned people, wearing a T-shirt and shorts for 10-30 minutes three times a week during the summer will be sufficient10. People with darker skin may need a bit longer than this.

However, a Korean study did not confirm the effectiveness of this recommendation. The experiment was Korean adults aged 20–49 years with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) levels of < 20 ng/mL11.

The results showed that the sunlight exposure group showed a slight increase in serum 25(OH)D level. The sunlight exposure group had sunlight exposure on 20% to 30% of their body surface areas for 30–60 minutes per day, 3 times a week during the summer season.

Let’s see how much of vitamin D can be obtained through sunbathing? A Norway study found that 30 minutes of midday summer sun exposure of the whole skin is equivalent to taking 10,000-20,000 IU vitamin D orally12. At the same time, the winter levels of vitamin D are 10 to 100% lower than the summer levels. That means people in Norway cannot get vitamin D from sunlight between October and March.

There are a lot of factors that can affect your ability to make vitamin D from sunlight. Firstly, it depends on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight. Other factors include the time of day, your skin color, and how far you live from the equator. Secondly, it should be taken into account how much skin you expose to sunlight and whether you’re wearing sunscreen.

Does sunscreen reduce vitamin D production?

Since we mentioned sunscreen, let’s see how it affects vitamin D. Some studies estimate that sunscreen of SPF 30 or more reduces vitamin D production in the body by about 95–98%13. However, several studies have shown that wearing sunscreen has a small impact on your blood levels during the summer141516. Perhaps the differing results are related to different factors and the duration of the experiments. Another possible explanation is that even though you are wearing sunscreen, staying in the sun for a longer period may cause enough vitamin D to be made. Anyway, the effect of sunscreens on circulating vitamin D levels remains debated.

In conclusion, in order to resolve the dilemma of sunscreens, you may try going without sunscreen for just the first 10–30 minutes. This period should depend on how sensitive your skin is to sunlight. And then you need to apply sunscreen before you start burning.

This article was last reviewed on 12 March 2020. This article was last modified on 10 February 2020.

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