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A startling amount of people lack enough vitamin D. Despite the fact that potentially one billion people globally struggle to absorb enough vitamin D from their diets and from their environment, the substance is integral to human health. Vitamin D shortages can lead to various short-term and long-term health problems, so supplementation is essential if you’re short.
What is it about vitamin D that people shouldn’t live without? Find out why vitamin D is good for you below.
Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin
First things first: the name “Vitamin D” is a misnomer. The substance we call vitamin D is actually a hormone. The distinction between vitamins and hormones is that the body can naturally produce only the latter kind of chemical — and since they’re naturally produced, the body depends on them quite strongly.
Vitamins can only be brought into the human bloodstream through diet or supplements, but the body can produce the hormone known as vitamin D just fine on its own. That’s why vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” — the sun’s ultraviolet rays, upon contact with the skin, jumpstart the production of vitamin D. A mere five to 10 minutes of sun exposure two to three times per week is usually enough to supply the body with enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus
Vitamin D intake regulates the bloodstream’s levels of calcium, which plays a vital role in maintaining bone health. This is the reason why milk companies have so strongly advertised their calcium-heavy products at parents of young children — poor bone health leads to low muscular strength. A lack of dietary vitamin D can manifest as osteoporosis, a medical condition in which the bones become weak and brittle.
Vitamin D also absorbs calcium in the intestines and prevents excessive calcium excretion in the kidneys, which can lead to extremely painful kidney stones. It similarly regulates phosphorus, another element crucial to bone health.
Vitamin D boosts the immune system
Although vitamin C is the vitamin most strongly associated with boosted immune system function, vitamin D is also said to play a strong role in the matter. Some studies have suggested that high levels of vitamin D are particularly effective at fighting respiratory infections and diseases. Others have even suggested that the decreased amount of sunlight during the winter accounts for the increased prevalence of the flu and cold viruses during the season.
Some have said that taking vitamin D alongside vitamin C is the best way to maximize each substance’s immune functions. However, further scientific research has cast doubt on whether the two in any way affect each other.
How much vitamin D is the right amount?
A healthy body requires 600 IU, or 15 micrograms, of vitamin D per day. Vitamin D is commonly sold in 1000 IU softgel supplements that can be taken alongside a meal. People with symptoms such as fatigue, bone and back pain, muscle pain, depression, and increased amounts of illness may do well to take these supplements. In fact, given the high number of people who may be vitamin D deficient, it’s not a bad idea for anyone of any level of health to prioritize vitamin D intake, whether via supplements or foods.