VITAMIN D BASICS
Vitamin D, also known as calcitriol or cholecalciferol, is a fat soluble vitamin that human body can produce on its own. Naturally, vitamin D is produced when sunlight strikes the skin. You can also get vitamin D from several foods and supplements. Vitamin D from supplements has to pass through chemical processes before body can use it. Once it is ready for use, it plays a crucial role in maintaining calcium and phosphate levels in body. This aids in better bones, improved mental health, enhanced athletic performance and many more health benefits.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VITAMIN D
Calcium is a crucial mineral that assists in several important body functions, for instance, it takes part in bone mineralization, aids in blood clotting, ensures optimum muscle contractions and so on. Vitamin D is important as it helps to keep blood calcium levels within normal range. Vitamin D accomplishes this by increasing calcium absorption through the gut and by decreasing its excretion through the kidneys (1) (2).
Vitamin D helps with bone mineralization in two ways. First, it improves blood calcium status. Second, it triggers the function of bone forming cells (osteoblasts) in bones (3). Results of studies have shown that supplementation with vitamin D and calcium increases bone strength and decreases the incidence of fracture (4).
Improved cognition is another important feature of normal vitamin D levels. Researchers now speculate that age related decline in cognition maybe associated with fall in vitamin D levels. The risk of dementia and neurological diseases (like Alzheimers) increases several folds with increasing age. Researchers have also found that as much as 50% individuals with poor cognitive functions are deficient in vitamin D 5) (6). Furthermore, supplementation of this vitamin may assist with better mental performance and cognition.
Coaches have long recognized that exposure to sunlight improves athletic performance. This fact has been validated by recent research as well that ties together the missing links between vitamin D levels and athletic performance. Vitamin D, as previously mentioned, strengthens bones. In addition, higher vitamin D intake or better exposure to sunlight, which will improve vitamin D status, improves the bulk and functioning of skeletal muscles too (7). Results of a research conducted at the Atascadero State Hospital, USA showed that exposure of vitamin D deficient athletes to sunlight improved their performance and also decreased the risk of sports related injuries/conditions (8).
Vitamin D may assist in the alkalization of urine- which is more favorable urine pH- as better vitamin D levels increase phosphate secretion into the urine that tends to increase urine pH (9).
How much Vitamin D do you need?
According to the US department of health, an average adult (including pregnant and lactating females) should get as much as 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D from diet, sun exposure and supplements.
- Christakos S, Dh awan P, Porta A, et al. Vitamin D and intestinal calcium absorption. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011 Dec 5;347(1-2):25-9.
- Gregory R. Mundy, Theresa A. Guise. Hormonal Control of Calcium Homeostasis. Clinical Chemistry. August 1999 vol. 45 no. 8 1347-1352
- van Leeuwen JP, van Driel M, van den Bemd GJ, Pols HA. Vitamin D control of osteoblast function and bone extracellular matrix mineralization. Crit Rev Eukaryot Gene Expr. 2001;11(1-3):199-226.
- Lips P, van Schoor NM. The effect of vitamin D on bone and osteoporosis. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Aug;25(4):585-91.
- Cynthia Balion, Lauren E. Griffith, Lisa Strifler, et al. Vitamin D, cognition, and dementia. Neurology. 2012 Sep 25; 79(13): 13971405.
- Consuelo H. Wilkins, Stanley J. Birge, Yvette I. Sheline, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Worse Cognitive Performance and Lower Bone Density in Older African Americans. J Natl Med Assoc. 2009 Apr; 101(4): 349354.
- Bruce Hamilton. Vitamin D and Athletic Performance: The Potential Role of Muscle. Asian J Sports Med. 2011 Dec; 2(4): 211219.
- Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, et al. Athletic performance and vitamin D. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 May;41(5):1102-10.
- Bergwitz C, Jopner H. Regulation of phosphate homeostasis by PTH, vitamin D, and FGF23. Annu Rev Med. 2010;61:91-104.