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Vitamin-D, an important mineral for the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus which are vital for the health of bones, muscles and teeth, is generally called the sunshine vitamin for a reason. It is best absorbed by the skin from exposure to sunlight.

Doctors have been prescribing calcium supplements for those with calcium deficiency for ages but without adequate amounts of Vitamin-D, the body will not be able to absorb more than 60 per cent of the mineral.

These days, many young people who work in closed offices, have Vitamin-D deficiency, as they have little to no exposure to the sun. A study says that 13 per cent of people world over have Vitamin-D deficiency. Some of the symptoms of Vitamin-D deficiency are pain in the bones and weak muscles. Left untreated, Vitamin-D deficiency leads to the disease known as rickets among children, which blunts their normal growth and makes their bones and teeth defective.

Vitamin-D is responsible for various functions in the body. Immunity to diseases and digestive power depend on having enough Vitamin-D. Researchers have pointed out that this sunshine vitamin helps prevent diabetes and cancer. Besides, nerves can get an additional stamina, while depression and other mental problems will subside considerably with the right amount of Vitamin-D.

Vitamin-D can be found in fatty foods such as fish, milk, milk cream, egg yolk, mushroom and nuts. However, Vitamin-D obtained from food sources alone is inadequate for the human body. One needs sunlight exposure too

Our skin carries a precursor to Vitamin-D, or a provitamin, called 7-dehydrocholesterol. When the sun’s ultraviolet rays fall on skin, 7-dehydrocholesterol is converted into Vitamin-D3. Although Vitamin-D can be obtained from certain foods, the most natural source — sunshine — is also the most plentiful source.

So, how much sun exposure do you need to get the right amount of Vitamin-D? People with light complexion skin will need to sunbathe only for about 15 minutes, whereas those with dark skin will need at least an hour in the sun. The reason is that dark skin carries a higher density of the pigment melanin, which inhibits absorption of Vitamin-D. Similarly, people with obesity also need longer sun exposure for proper absorption of Vitamin-D.

Among food sources, Vitamin-D can be found in fatty foods such as fish, milk, milk cream, egg yolk, mushroom and nuts. However, Vitamin-D obtained from food sources alone is inadequate for the human body. One needs sunlight exposure too. For those who are deficient in the mineral and have been prescribed supplements, it is best taken after consuming these fatty foods, as Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. However, these supplements must be taken only on doctors’ advice. Otherwise, too much of the vitamin may accumulate in the body, impacting it negatively, triggering weakness, constipation and dysentery.

Also Read: Sunlight for survival: The story of the discovery of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in the everyday operations of various organs in the body. Sufficient amounts of this vitamin is needed for those looking to reduce weight. Vitamin D also facilitates the transmission of messages through the neural network of the brain to various limbs of the body. This vitamin is also involved in keeping the body free from diabetes and cancer, to some extent.

Women, particularly those going through menopause, must ensure they do not have vitamin deficiencies, and take care to either eat the right diets full of micronutrients or supplement them.

Sufficient intake of Vitamin D-rich food, daily walks and regular exposure to the sun will help prevent vitamin deficiency.

(Professor Anitha Madhu is a food scientist teaching at Dhanapal Arts & Science College)


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