Well, undoubtedly you have heard about Vitamin D. It is a unique vitamin because we can make it ourselves if exposed to enough sunlight (that’s why it is called the “sunshine” vitamin), or we can get it from our foods or in supplements.
When we make it ourselves it isn’t really a vitamin, it is actually a hormone. What? Really? Ah, yes. By definition, a vitamin is a health promoting substance that has been determined to be essential to health and cannot be made by our bodies so it must be consumed. By definition, a hormone is something that is made in certain cells in the body and then moves through the blood stream to cause its effect somewhere else. So, should we call Vit D the sunshine vitamin or the sunshine hormone? In this case, it really doesn’t matter since the actual Vit D molecule is the same.
If you are in the sun long enough without being covered up with clothing or sunscreen, the oil on your skin can be transformed into Vit D by the ultraviolet light. It is then absorbed through your skin and into your bloodstream where it is carried to target cells around the body.
It has been long known that Vit D helps regulate mineral metabolism (“strong bones and teeth”). It is also involved in many other metabolic pathways and the expression of over 200 genes. As more and more research is done on Vit D, we are finding all sorts of interesting things. It appears that Vit D plays a direct role in helping the immune system work properly, helps keep chronic inflammation in check, seems to help with cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), helps with asthma, and many, many other things.
How big is the importance of Vit D to our health? Well, the accumulating data is clear and shocking, Vit D is a critical hormone for our health and most people do not make or consume enough to assure good health. A study just published in the British Medical Journal that included 26,000 people, aged 50 to 79, found that lower Vit D levels were linked to increased risk of death from all causes. All causes! And, this is not the first study to show this.
So, I think you can see it. Vitamin D is so very important for our overall health, and for our bones and teeth too!
There will be 4 more parts to this series on the Sunshine Vitamin. Who knows, it may become your new favorite! Stay tuned!