Vitamin D – what is it?

Apr 1, 2021 Immune health

Vitamin D – what is it?

Vitamin D is often called ‘the sunshine vitamin’, and it’s true, too.

Vitamin D can be absorbed from the food we eat but must be ‘activated’ in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Sidebar: Vitamin D is a family of vitamins that differ in small ways but, and this is important, are comparable in effect after processing by our bodies. Severe vitamin D deficiencies cause a condition called ‘rickets’, something hardly seen anymore thanks to supplementation. However, vitamin D inadequacy is very much ‘a thing’ and inadequacy may result in disease.

Am I at risk?

Possibly. Older people and people with darker skins are less able to produce vitamin D from sunlight. People who spend their time indoors, too, are at risk because the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight required to produce vitamin D in skin is filtered out by glass. Also, a diet poor in vitamin D may put you at risk of vitamin D inadequacy.

Ok, so what does vitamin D deficiency and inadequacy cause?

As mentioned previously in this article vitamin D deficiency can cause painful rickets in children, a condition where bones fail to become fully hard, resulting in skeletal deformities. Vitamin D deficiency may also result in developmental delay, seizures, muscle spasms, heart disease and dental abnormalities.

In adults and adolescents, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, where bone is incompletely mineralised, resulting in weak bones, pain, and deformities.

Vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked to respiratory diseases, like COVID. Several studies have shown that the supplementation of vitamin D can reduce your changes of developing respiratory illness, especially in vitamin D deficient or inadequacy groups.

What can I do to fix the situation?

The good news here is that it is pretty easy to remedy vitamin D deficiency or inadequacy. A quality vitamin D supplement offering more than 40 IU (or international units), which is about 1μg (microgram) should be sufficient. See the table below for a more comprehensive overview of recommended dosages.

ChildrenAdults
MinimumMaximumMinimumMaximum
1-13 years: 0,2μg
(8 IU)
≤ 25 μg
(1 000 IU)
0,8 μg
(32 IU
≤ 1 000 μg
(40 000 IU)
14-18 years: 0,8 μg
(32 IU)
≤ 25 μg