The benefits of Vitamin DPublished 10:36am Friday, June 1, 2012
Vitamin D supplementation seems all the rage these days. Do we really need to take it? How much is necessary? How much is too much? First, what is this nutrient, and what can it do for us?
Vitamin D is often considered a vitamin, but in fact, it isn’t a vitamin at all, but rather a fat soluble “secosteroid” or hormone. One of vitamin D’s main functions is to help our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus properly. This is essential for strong bones and teeth.
Children who don’t get enough vitamin D often develop rickets or other skeletal deformities, as well as malformed teeth. Adults who don’t get sufficient amounts may suffer from “osteomalacia,” or bone softening. For this reason, vitamin D is used for preventing falls and fractures in folks at risk for osteoporosis.
Vitamin D may help arm the immune system, preventing autoimmune diseases, and helping prevent cancers, say scientists from the university of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston. It may reduce risk for developing multiple sclerosis, and play a key role in helping the brain to keep working well in later life.
Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women. Also, higher intake of vitamin D has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in women. One form of vitamin D known as “calcitrol” or “calcipotriene” can be applied directly to the skin for a particular type of psoriasis.
Well, now we know some of the great stuff vitamin D can do for us, but how much do we actually need, how much should we take, and how much is unsafe. First of all, five forms of vitamin D have been discovered, D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5, but D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol) seem to be most important to humans.