Vitamin D3 is alternatively known as cholecalciferol, Vitamin D, Vitamin D2 or Ergocalciferol. Vitamin D3 is fat-soluble and the body makes it using sunlight and stores it in fat tissues. Researchers suggest that cholecalciferol is better able to raise vitamin D levels in the blood. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause many health problem. Recommended adequate intake (AI) is 5mcg for adults between the ages of 31 to 50 years and 10mcg for those over 50 years.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D3
Elderly people, children, those who live in northern countries where there is not much sunlight, dark-skinned people are all at risk of suffering from a deficiency. The health benefits of vitamin D3 are many and it is important to get sufficient quantities through exposure to sunlight, food and supplements to prevent serious health problems.
Benefits for the bone : The best known health benefits of vitamin D3 for the bones are helping in the prevention of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis results in soft and fragile bones and increases the risk of bone fractures. Vitamin D3 has to produce the hormone that helps the body absorb calcium and therefore it is critical for bone health. Postmenopausal women are at risk of contracting osteoporosis and hence must increase their intake of both calcium and vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 also prevents other bone disorders like osteomalacia, rickets and softened bones in adults. Strong bones reduce the incidences of adults falling and fracturing their limbs. Making sure you get at least 45minutes of sunlight every week and consuming sufficient dairy products or vitamin D3 supplements can prevent incidences of various bone disorders.
Benefits for hypertension : Certain studies indicate that low levels of vitamin D3 increases the risk of a person suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure especially if they also suffer from kidney problems or have hyperparathyroidism. However, vitamin D3 does not lower high blood pressure.
Benefits for cancer : Sufficient vitamin D3 in the body can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers like breast, pancreatic, colon, colorectal skin and prostate cancer. A large study of postmenopausal women has suggested that those who take the required quantities of vitamin D3 and calcium have lower risk of developing any form of cancer while other studies have found no such link.
Benefits for depression : Sunshine has normally been associated with happy moods and it is said to elevate feelings of moderate depression. Experts now suggest that the since cholecalciferol is produced when the body is exposed to sunlight, there could be a link between this vitamin and alleviation of depression. A European study found that 400 overweight people given vitamin D supplements showed fewer depressive traits than those given a placebo.
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that affects people during winter when there is no sunlight. Giving light therapy, or vitamin D3 supplements seemed to help such people.
Benefits for the heart : Low levels of vitamin D3 have been linked to greater incidences of heart diseases, heart failure and strokes. This could be because low vitamin D3 leads to calcium build-up, blockage and plaque formation in the arteries (atherosclerosis).
Benefits for Asthma : Health benefits of vitamin D3 for asthma have been found especially in dark-skinned children.It has been found that vitamin D3 can help steroids used for asthma in clearing respiratory airways.
Benefits for cognitive functions : Rapid decline of cognitive functions has been linked to lower levels of vitamin D3. Studies found that those with greater than 60% deficiency suffered from hypovitaminosis D and were more at risk of cognitive failure, lowered physical abilities and capacity to learn. Studies are being conducted about the benefits of vitamin d3 for other mood and cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.
Benefits for peripheral arterial disease : Children should be exposed to the sun for a few minutes each day to absorb vitamin D and therefore prevent incidences of peripheral arterial diseases. With the help of the sun, the body produces vitamin D3 and helps in better absorption of calcium, which in turn is vital for bone health.
Other health benefits of vitamin D3
- Disorders of parathyroid glands often results in low levels of vitamin D3, calcium and phosphorous
- Those with lower vitamin D3 levels can develop type 2 diabetes although this vitamin cannot prevent or treat diabetes.
- Sufficient vitamin D3 in the blood lowered mortality risk
- Studies have found that women who take 400IU vitamin D3 every day have lesser risk of developing multiple sclerosis – especially in white population rather than in dark-skinned people.
- Lower levels of vitamin D3 increased the incidences of obesity
- Rachitic rosary is small beadlike bumps that appear on the rib joints. This is a disease associated with rickets and is present in children deficient in vitamin D3.
- Patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis etc. and psoriasis – a skin-related autoimmune disease -, all suffer from low levels of vitamin D3.
Food sources of Vitamin D3
Health benefits of vitamin D3 can be got from rich food sources such as breakfast cereals and dairy products, yoghurt, orange juice and margarine that are fortified with this vitamin. Fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon and fish liver oils contain vitamin D3. Small quantities can be got from egg yolks, beef liver, cheese and mushrooms exposed to sunlight.
The tolerable upper limit of vitamin D3 for everyone over 9 years is 4000 IU. Anything above this can cause side effects like extreme thirst, bone pain, poor appetite, weight loss, constipation, vomiting, diarrhea, frequent urination, itchy and dry skin and muscle problems. It is only through supplements that you can get an overdose of vitamin D3. Those with heart problems, kidney diseases, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis or high phosphorous levels must be careful about their vitamin D3 intake.
Having seen the many health benefits of vitamin D3 for curing rickets, treating bone disorders, cancer, heart disease etc, we now know how important it is to ensure our body has sufficient quantities of this essential vitamin.