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Discover the essential functions of Vitamin D as we unravel its impact on bone health, immune function, and disease prevention. From clinical applications to practical tips, this concise guide simplifies the complex world of Vitamin D, emphasizing the importance of balance for overall well-being. Join us on this insightful journey into the vital pathways of Vitamin D.
Understanding the Target for Vitamin D
In a 2018 article, authors explain how active Vitamin D3, called calcitriol, works and what it does in the body.1 Here is what they had to say:
Clinical applications of vitamin D
Vitamin D targets a wide range of disorders in clinical applications, including issues related to the storage of vitamin D in the body. A deficiency in Vitamin D can contribute to various health problems. Some of these issues caused by a lack of Vitamin D include: 1,2,3:
How do we measure vitamin D and what do those values mean?
Vitamin D is usually measured through serum levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D), also known as calcidiol, the circulating form of vitamin D3.
A normal level of Vitamin D varies from person to person, and according to their health condition. Although a consensus regarding the ideal levels of Vitamin D is hard to achieve, most researchers and studies demonstrate that vitamin D insufficiency is a worldwide health problem4.
Maximizing Vitamin D Levels: Understanding Its Longevity and Boosting Production
Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, lingers in the body for an extended period, with a half-life of approximately two to three weeks. This longevity allows the body to maintain consistent levels, influenced by factors such as the type of vitamin D (D2 or D3), individual variations, and overall health.
Adequate sun exposure, consumption of vitamin D-rich foods, including plant-based vitamin D sources, and supplements if necessary, contribute to sustaining optimal vitamin D levels. Regular monitoring through blood tests ensures informed decisions on maintaining vitamin D status, reducing the risk of deficiencies, and understanding how to raise vitamin D levels effectively.
In terms of vitamin D status in the body in what relates to vitamin D levels (serum 25(OH)-D levels) most experts agree5,6:
What is the recommended daily intake of vitamin D?
For optimal health benefits of vitamin D, it’s recommended to have a circulating level of calcidiol above 30 ng/mL (75 nmol/L). Additionally, maintaining blood concentrations above 32 ng/mL (80 nmol/L) is crucial not only for maximizing intestinal calcium but also for supporting the production of active vitamin D in various tissues.
In summary, keeping the circulating form of vitamin D3, calcidiol, at levels above 75 nmol/L or 30 ng/mL is advisable.
Is it possible to produce too much Vitamin D and get intoxicated?
Vitamin D intoxication is among the rarest medical conditions in all medical literature. The registered cases of intoxication are often caused by negligent or intentional ingestion of extremely high doses of vitamin D for prolonged periods of time 8.
Vitamin D intoxication is defined as a 25(OH)D > 150 ng/ml. It can cause problems like too much calcium in the blood and urine, too much phosphorus, and a decrease in PTH. This can lead to the buildup of calcium salts in the kidneys (nephrocalcinosis) and the hardening of soft tissues, especially blood vessels.
There has never been a reported case of vitamin D intoxication from sun exposure. Have you ever heard of a lifeguard with vitamin D intoxication? No matter how much sun exposure a person has, this will never cause vitamin D intoxication because sunlight itself destroys any excess vitamin D and previtamin D5,10.
The Role of Melanin in Sunlight Exposure and Vitamin D Production
One factor is the presence of melanin (the pigment that produces skin and hair color in humans) in the skin. The pigment melanin in the skin absorbs UV radiation, competing with provitamin D3 and limiting its conversion to previtamin D3. This can reduce the effectiveness of sunlight in producing vitamin D3 in the skin. People with darker skin, usually more exposed to sunlight, produce less vitamin D3 because they have more melanin11.
However, this is not the primary factor preventing excess production of vitamin D in the skin of people constantly exposed to sunlight. During the initial exposure to sunlight, provitamin D3 is efficiently converted to previtamin D3, but with continued exposure, no more than 10-20% of the initial provitamin D3 will end up as previtamin D39.
Vitamin D deficiency – a Worldwide Health Concern
Subclinical vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency may affect the majority of men and women in all age groups in many geographical regions. A systematic review covering 168,000 people from 44 countries reported vitamin D deficiency (serum 25(OH)D <50 nmol/L or 20 ng/mL) in 37% of studies12.
Factors such as low sunlight exposure, age-related decreases in cutaneous synthesis, and diets low in vitamin D contribute to the high prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy13,14. Children, young or middle-aged adults, are equally at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency13,14, however, newborns and institutionalized elderly appear to be at higher risk of exhibiting lower vitamin D levels12.
Conclusion: Navigating Vitamin D’s Vital Impact
Our exploration of Vitamin D reveals its key roles in bone health, immune function, and disease prevention. The message is clear: maintaining optimal levels is crucial for overall well-being. Whether through sunlight, diet, or supplements, finding the right balance requires informed choices and regular checks. As we continue this journey, the profound benefits of Vitamin D underscore the importance of a comprehensive approach. Stay tuned for our next post, simplifying deficiency factors and offering practical prevention tips.
In our next post, we will describe the factors that contribute to vitamin D deficiency and how to prevent it!
Vanessa Pinto graduated with a degree in Biology and Masters in Ecology from Lisbon University. After graduating, she underwent a series of professional and personal growth experiences, including being an officer in the Portuguese Army, working in countries as diverse as Iceland and Costa Rica. Vanessa became certified as a Yoga and Meditation teacher in rural India.
Being a compassionate person by nature, Vanessa is able to bring her connectedness when working with others while enhancing the importance and practicality of a pragmatic evidence-based approach to facilitating lasting and permanent change. Vanessa is a certified health coach whose specialties are nutrition, exercise, and mind/ body connection. She works both in Portugal, Thailand and USA, where she develops her work closely with people diagnosed with cancer, mainly in the areas of nutrition, movement and health education.