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Vitamin D and its benefits

Vitamin D is important for good overall health and strong and healthy bones. It’s also an important factor in making sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well and that your body can fight infection. Your body can make its own vitamin D from sunlight. You can also get vitamin D from supplements and small amount comes from a few foods we eat.

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamins are chemicals that are needed by your body for good health. They are vital for everyone and ensure that your body works well, is able to fight illness and heal well.

The major role of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which forms and maintains strong bones. It is used alone or together with calcium to improve bone health and decrease fractures. Vitamin D may also protect against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.

What are the risks of vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency — when the level of vitamin D in your body is too low — can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or misshapen.

Vitamin D also appears to play a role in insulin resistance, high blood pressure and immune function and how this relates to heart disease and cancer, but these are being investigated.

Although the amount of vitamin D adults get from their diets is often less than what’s recommended, exposure to sunlight can make up for the difference. For most adults, vitamin D deficiency is not a concern. However, some groups particularly people who are obese and who are older than age 65 may have lower levels of vitamin D due to their diets, little sun exposure or other factors.

Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D can be found in foods such as nuts, oily fish, eggs, powdered milk and some fortified cereals. This underrated vitamin is found in certain foods but is also produced by the body in response to exposure to the sun.When the sun’s ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays are exposed to bare skin, the body converts a cholesterol derivative into Vitamin D. In fact, it’s now known that every cell and tissue within the body has a Vitamin D protein receptor.

However, one in every 5 people in India are deficient , including many patients with Type 2 diabetes, due to limited sunlight exposure caused by a number of factors, including more time spent at home, in the office or the car, shorter days in winter, sunscreen use in summer and fears of skin cancer.

Don’t overdo it, though. Very high levels of vitamin D have not been shown to provide greater benefits. In fact, too much vitamin D has been linked to other health problems.

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Dr Raga Sandhya (MRCPsych) is a Specialist Psychiatrist with demonstrable experience in Palliative Care and Psycho Oncology, Child Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Addiction and Consultant-Liaison Psychiatry.