Why is vitamin D so important for your health?

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is a fat-soluble hormone that the body can synthesize naturally. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized by humans when skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from sunlight. Vitamin D helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.

Vitamin D is very important for our bodies because it assists in the absorption of calcium and promotes bone mineralization, which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and protect against a number of serious diseases, including rickets and osteomalacia. Some research suggests that vitamin D may also provide protection:

(1) Hypertension
(2) Psoriasis
(3) Autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis)
(4) Reduce the incidence of fractured bones.
(5) Growing evidence has demonstrated its important role in defending against cancer

Deficiencies of vitamin D are common, especially in industrialized countries in northern latitudes, where sun exposure is typically infrequent. Low levels of vitamin D may be indicated by porous bones, weak muscles and easy fracturing.

Good sources of vitamin D

We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin. The vitamin is made by our body under the skin in reaction to summer sunlight. However, if you are out in the sun, take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you turn red or get burnt.

Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods. Good food sources are:
(1) Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and mackerel
(2) Eggs
(3) Fortified fat spreads
(4) Fortified breakfast cereals
(5) Powdered milk

Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need by eating a healthy balanced diet and by getting some summer sun.

Groups of the population at risk of not getting enough vitamin D are: all pregnant and breastfeeding women; babies and young children under the age of five; older people aged 65 years and over; people who are not exposed to much sun; people who have darker skin such as people of African, African-Caribbean and South Asian origin....