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April 16, 2021 4 min read

 

Known for being the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is surprisingly essential for our bodies to function. Many correlate vitamin D not only with the sunshine but with healthy bones and muscle function, too - and for a good reason. Vitamin D is more than just a nutrient - it plays a variety of roles in the body by acting as a messenger within your metabolism. This can affect everything from our weight to our organ function. Despite its importance, vitamin D deficiency is very common. In fact,41.6% of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient, considering how difficult it can be to obtain naturally. 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin created when our skin comes in contact with the sun's ultraviolet (U.V.) rays. What many don't know is that vitamin D isn't actually a vitamin. Vitamins are nutrients that our body cannot create on its own. Therefore, it needs help from diet or supplements. Vitamin D is different from most other nutrients because it acts as more of a prohormone (or precursor) of a hormone produced by the sun thanks to the cholesterol in our skin cells. Vitamin D is essential in bone growth. It also plays an active role in other vital functions such as skeletal muscle growth and function, immune function, protein synthesis, cardiovascular function, inflammatory response, cell growth, and musculoskeletal regulation.

What are the Health Benefits?

Taking supplements every day is an integral part of any healthy lifestyle, providing benefits in various ways. Pinnacle Nutrition Group (PNG) is a great option, offering an immunity boost drink mix that not only contains Vitamin D but is also packed with Vitamins B6, B12, Calcium, and Zinc. There are a handful of benefits that vitamin D itself provides when we take the recommended daily amount. Perhaps the most well-known is the increased strength and growth of our bones. Proper vitamin D levels significantly reduced the risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures, especially in elderly and menopausal women. It also affects the different types of cells in our body related to bone health. Such as those that promote the absorption of both calcium and phosphorus from our stomach. Other studies have shown that vitamin D can give you a longer life expectancy, including reduced risk from different types of cancers, such as colon and breast cancer. Not only does it help with physical healing, but it can improve our mental health too. "Researchers behind a 2013 meta-analysis noticed those study participants with depression also had low vitamin D levels. The same analysis found that, statistically, people with low vitamin D were at a much greater risk of depression." Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) results from a lack of sunshine, which can cause a deficiency.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need Daily and Where Can I Get iI?

Many factors vary from person to person when it comes to the source and amount. Some of these might include age, skin color, where geographic location, and more. There is a primary source that people should be able to get their daily intake from, and it's the sun. Unfortunately, not everyone can lounge out in the sunshine all day. Nearly half of the population in the U.S. alone is vitamin D deficient, with some more deficient than others. If the sun is something that isn't a viable option, there are other solutions. Different foods are good sources of vitamin D. Two types of vitamin D come from various sources. Vitamin D2 provides the vitamin from plant-based options, and D3 provides the vitamin from animal-based products and fatty fish. Some sources include mushrooms, fatty fish, eggs, milk, and other dairy products. Fortified foods will also count towards the RDA, and if all else fails, supplements are the way to go.

Each day our body needs a certain amount of vitamin D to function properly. TheMayoclinic recommends the following Daily allowance:

400 IU in Infants

600 IU in Ages 1-70

800 IU in Ages 70+

Who is at Risk for Deficiency?

Vitamins and minerals are not always easy to get from the environment or diet alone. People who are often indoors, use sunscreen, or layered in clothing keep themselves from being exposed to the sun, preventing them from getting optimal daily intake. On the other hand, some don't choose with their geographical location or seasons that may keep the sun away for weeks or months at a time; the latitude of where someone lives can have a significant impact year-round as some places receive little sun. Other factors such as skin tone have a considerable effect when it comes to vitamin D levels. Darker skin tones produce a much higher amount of melanin than lighter skin tones. Therefore they are always more vitamin D deficient. "One study showed that athletes withhigh concentrations of melanin in their skin need up to 10 times longer exposure to ultraviolet (UVB) radiation to generate the same reserves of VITD as light-skinned athletes." 

Athletes and Vitamin D

A study was done over the last decade, watching the correlation between vitamin D levels and athletes. Shockingly, only 5% of college athletes met the U.S. recommended dietary allowance. Researchers researched athletes from different sports such as runners, basketball players, jockeys, gymnasts, and dancers. They found that it didn't rely on the intensity or even their athletic ability. What made a difference was the geographical location and what sport they played (whether it was indoor or outdoor). "In relation to VITD supplementation in athletes with deficiency, several studies have shown that this increases muscle strength. Higher serum levels of vitamin D are associated with reduced injury rates and better sports performance."

If there's even a possibility of being Vitamin D deficient, it's probably a good idea to get your levels checked. The only way to know for sure is to visit your primary care physician and have them run a test for it. Whether we get our daily intake from the sunshine or our diet and supplements, having adequate levels of this unique vitamin makes an extreme difference in our health. Changing a few habits into eating more D2 and D3 healthy foods and spending some time out in the sun is worth the extended life expectancy and all of vitamin D's other mental and physical health benefits. Receiving the recommended daily allowance from companies like
 PNG will provide many of the necessary vitamins so that you can get back to being your best self and live a healthy lifestyle.


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