The human body needs essential nutrients (vitamins) to grow and develop. There are several types of Vitamins found in the human body and Vitamin D is one of the most important. It is not a chemical but is found in form of more than one chemical, mostly as an active Calciferol, a fat-soluble compound.
One can get vitamin D in three ways: through the skin, from the diet, and supplements. The human body forms vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight.
Technically speaking, Vitamin D is not a vitamin because it breaks the other rules for vitamins as it is produced in the human body endogenously when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays trigger vitamin D synthesis after coming into contact with skin.
How sunlight synthesizes Vitamin D?
The natural type of Vitamin D is produced in the skin from a universally present form of cholesterol, chemically called 7-dehydrocholesterol. It remains stored in the body’s fat cells as inactive until it’s needed. Then it a transformed into a usable and active form through a process called hydroxylation. When sunlight falls on the body, its ultraviolet B (UVB) energy converts this chemical to vitamin D3.
This Vitamin D3 is first carried to the liver where it picks up extra oxygen and hydrogen molecules to transform into 25-hydroxyvitamin D. After that this chemical then travels to the kidneys where it acquires a final pair of oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 1,25 dihydroxy vitamin D. Scientists call this active form of the vitamin calcitriol, but for ordinary folks, it is now vitamin D.
Why is sunlight best for Vitamin D?
Apart from sunlight, Vitamin D is naturally found in small quantities in a few foods. It is absent from all-natural foods except for some meat-based items like fish and egg yolks. So for people who don’t eat animal products, it’s hard to get enough Vitamin D from their diet. And even when the nutrient is obtained from foods, it must be synthesized in the body before it can do any good. So here also, the importance of sunlight comes into the picture.
Nowadays, with better medical research advancement, Vitamin D is also available as a dietary supplement in direct soluble form, especially for elderly, sick, and pregnant women who cannot assess direct sunlight. Such is also the case with more and more people who are busy with their office jobs during the daytime and are unable to move outside to get an adequate sunbath.
So, the sun is our best natural source of Vitamin D which is why Vitamin D is often termed Sunshine Vitamin. Spending a short time in the sun every day can provide the body with all the necessary vitamin D. Despite robust healthcare, roughly 42% of adults in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. Such problems are especially prevalent in places that get less sunlight.
Data shows that most people can produce enough vitamin D to meet the daily recommended dose of vitamin D is 600–800 IU by spending roughly 30 minutes in the sun a few times a week.
Benefits of Vitamin D from sunlight:
Vitamin D from sunlight ensures some of the vital body functions, most notably, the regulation of the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, the main building blocks of bone, for maintaining proper health. It also has a significant role play in the nerve, muscle, and immune systems. Some of the many health benefits of Vitamin D include the strengthening of teeth and bones, immune system empowerment, prevention of cancer, improving brain function, mood stabilization, and relief from depression. Among other good impacts of Vitamin D are weight loss management, recovery from rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and, of course, heart disease.
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