Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, and is stored in adipose (fat) tissue of the body. It is primarily responsible for the absorption and regulation of calcium and phosphorous in the body. Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin. It is chemically known as calciferol.
Types of vitamin D
There are five types of vitamin D – vitamins D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. Out of the five, only two are very important for the human body. They are:
- Vitamin D2: Its scientific name is ergocalciferol.
- Vitamin D3: Its scientific name is cholecalciferol.
Functions of vitamin D
- It is a fat soluble steroid hormone, which is necessary for maintaining calcium and phosphorous at normal levels in the blood stream.
- It helps in preventing rickets in children by increasing the bone mineral density. Rickets is a disorder caused by poor mineralization of calcium and phosphate in the children of age 6 to 24 months. This leads to softening and weakening of bones and finally results in bone fractures.
- It helps in preventing osteoporosis in adults. Osteoporosis is a bone disease caused due to decrease in bone mass and density. It occurs in women who are above 60 years. After menopause, women tend to lose bone mass rapidly due to the fall of oestrogen levels.
- During childhood and teenage years, bone formation exceeds bone resorption and the bone density increases. But as you grow older, this process reverses, and you start losing certain amount of bone material. The amount you loss may vary. Vitamin D supplement is recommended for people above 65 years and for people who have vitamin D deficiency. Before taking vitamin D supplement consult a doctor.
- It is the only vitamin that is prepared by skin when exposed to sunlight. When sunlight strikes your skin, your body naturally synthesizes vitamin D. Therefore, vitamin D supplement is not required for people who get enough sunlight. Exposing skin to sunlight for a long time may lead to skin damage or skin cancers.
- Vitamin D helps in controlling and regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels in the body. It prevents diseases such as diabetes, hyperglycemia, etc.
- It contains anti-inflammatory agents that help in protecting us from chronic diseases like cancer, heart diseases, etc.
Food sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants and vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans in the skin. Vitamin D is found in fish, eggs, fortified dairy products, cod liver oil, fortified cereals, fortified soy products and mushrooms.
Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Consume food rich in this vitamin and try to expose yourself to early sun light. If the deficiency is severe you could go for vitamin supplements. However, it is important to consult professionals before you start taking a course of vitamin D supplements.