By: Tony Wang
Everybody knows that sunlight is a natural remedy, but do you know why exactly sunlight is so important? The answer lies in Vitamin D. Commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins, responsible for both muscle health and bone health. Unlike other vitamins like Vitamin A or Vitamin B, Vitamin D functions like a bodily hormone. Its main purpose is to help the body absorb important nutrients such as phosphate and calcium. These nutrients are responsible for building and repairing somatic cell tissue. In recent years, medical experts have found that there has been a steady rise in Vitamin D deficiency around the world. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is around 400-1000 IU (international units) per day but most adults are only taking in 100-200 IU of Vitamin D daily. According to a study conducted in 2011, more than 42% of adults in the United States are deficient in Vitamin D. This number goes up in darker skinned individuals, with 70% of Hispanics being deficient and 82% of African Americans being deficient, due to higher levels of melanin. Melanin is a complex polymer pigment that acts as a natural sunscreen. Because it blocks out sunlight, it also prevents sunlight from helping cells produce Vitamin D, which means that darker skinned individuals require more sunlight in order to produce adequate quantities of Vitamin D. This is a severe issue since Vitamin D deficiency not only causes high blood pressure and heart disease, it may also greatly increase the chances of developing cancer and severe depression. Vitamin D deficiencies are also linked to a disease known as rickets, when bones and muscles do not develop properly, leading to skeletal deformities and fragile bones.
Most experts suspect that the cause of the rise of Vitamin D deficiency may simply be that people are not spending enough time under the sun. As more and more people choose indoor office jobs, people are spending less and less time outside and under the Sun. Many scientists claim that the best way to get Vitamin D is through sunlight. Although foods like fatty fish and dairy products may provide some Vitamin D, they are not nearly enough for the long-term. Contrary to popular belief, sunlight itself does not contain any Vitamins. Instead, the sunlight hits cells and gives cells the energy to produce and store its own Vitamin D. So in a way, humans actually photosynthesize when they stand under the Sun.
In conclusion, Vitamin D deficiency is an extremely common problem that most people are unaware of. Since the symptoms are so non-specific and subtle, it can often be difficult to detect. If you think you may have a Vitamin D deficiency, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider. Fortunately, a Vitamin D deficiency is relatively easy to fix. If you live in an area with low sunlight or you are unable to access the outside Sun, doctors may prescribe vitamin supplement pills or fish oil. Vitamin D deficiency is an extremely common problem but also one that is easy to fix, so everyone should try their best to get as much sunlight as they can so that they can maintain strong bones, healthy muscles, and a positive mindset.
What Did You Learn?
1. What is the main function of Vitamin D?
Unlike other vitamins like Vitamin A or Vitamin B, Vitamin D functions like a bodily hormone. Its main purpose is to help the body absorb important nutrients such as phosphate and calcium. These nutrients are responsible for building and repairing somatic cell tissue. Without Vitamin D, the body would be unable to absorb many essential nutrients, leading to severe malnutrition.
2. Why do darker skinned individuals require more Vitamin D?
The main reason darker skinned individuals require more Vitamin D is because they have higher levels of melanin. Melanin is a complex polymer pigment that acts as a natural sunscreen. Because it blocks out sunlight, it also prevents sunlight from helping cells produce Vitamin D. This means that darker skinned individuals require more sunlight in order to produce adequate quantities of Vitamin D.