The Sunshine Vitamin

Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi
Resposible for the absorption of Calcium, Iron, Phosphorous, Zinc and Magnesium is another fat soluble vitamin known as vitamin D. Vitamin D occur in two major forms which are - Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).Vit D2 is obtained naturally from plants while Vit D3 is synthesized in the skin on exposure to ultraviolet radiations from the sun hence it is called ‘the sunshine vitamin’ . The Vitamin D3 synthesized in the skin is inert in nature
therefore the need to activate it. Its activation process starts in the liver to form calcidiol, calcidiol is then converted to a biologically active form known as calcitriol by the kidney.

Cholecalciferol occurs naturally in few foods such as fatty fish, fish liver oils and egg yolks. Some foods can also be fortified with Vit D3.Thus,the recommended daily intake requires exposure to sunlight so individuals not exposed to enough sunlight can supplement with vit D3 from diet or supplement drugs. The Institute of Medicine recommends a dosage of 600IU per day for people between ages 1-70, a higher dose of 800IU for those older than 71 and a lesser dose of 400 IU for infants1.

Deficiencies in Vitamin D3 could lead to asthma and rickets in children,cancer, increased death from cardiovascular diseases, osteomalacia and cognitive impairment in the elderly. It could also be prompted by not taking the required dose over-time, inadequate sunlight exposure,some medical conditions that hinders absorption and obesity.

Cholecalciferol is essential in the development of strong bones because it helps the body to utilize Calcium. It is relevant in the prevention and treatment of Type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and glucose intolerance.

Research shows that those living in Southern Latitudes showed lower incidence and death rates of certain cancers. Southern Latitudes have relatively high sunlight exposure which in turn increases the vitamin D level and may be linked to this outcome. 

However, in a bid to get the required daily intake of Vit D3 through sunlight exposure, one needs to be careful because same exposure to ultraviolet radiations from the sun is implicated in skin cancers. 5- 30 minutes exposure to the morning sun or the use of sunscreens might be a good option.



1Institute of Medicine Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and                  Calcium. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D.                                           Washington, DC:        National             Academies Press; 2011




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