Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight.
It’s a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s directly exposed to sunlight.
You can also get it through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
Vitamin D has several important functions. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and facilitating normal immune system function.
Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for the normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you’re at risk of developing bone abnormalities such as soft bones (osteomalacia) or fragile bones (osteoporosis).
Here are three more surprising benefits of vitamin D.
Vitamin D fights disease. Vitamin D reduces depression. Vitamin D boosts weight loss.
Many factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors include:
• Being in an area with high pollution • Using sunscreen • Spending more time indoors • Living in big cities where buildings block sunlight • Having darker skin. (The higher the levels of melanin, the less vitamin D the skin can absorb.) These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people.
That’s why it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.
Despite its name, vitamin D is not a vitamin, but a prohormone, or precursor of a hormone.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:
• regular sickness or infection • fatigue • bone and back pain • low mood • impaired wound healing • hair loss • muscle pain
If Vitamin D deficiency continues for long periods, it may result in complications
• cardiovascular conditions • autoimmune problems • neurological diseases • infections • pregnancy complications • certain cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon.