Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”

Screening for vitamin D status is becoming a common part of routine laboratory blood testing

Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin”, helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate, which are essential for the formation of bones and teeth, the function of the heart, muscles and nerves, and for cell and tissue repair. Additionally, its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity.

Sun exposure is the main source of vitamin D. The body produces the vitamin when the skin is exposed to direct ultraviolet (UV) radiation light from the sun through a chemical reaction which converts a substance, 7-Dehydrocholesterol, into vitamin D3. Vitamin D is naturally present in several foods. Vitamin D can be found in two forms ­–vitamin D2, mainly found in plant-based food, and vitamin D3, which is made by the body and can be found in animal-based food.

Vitamin D deficiency affects ~40% of the European population, and it is estimated that 13% of Europeans are vitamin D severely deficient [1]. This occurs when people consume lower than recommended levels of vitamin D, have limited exposure to sunlight, kidneys have difficulty converting the vitamin by to its active form, or the digestive system does not sufficiently absorb vitamin D from food. Groups that are higher risk for Vitamin D deficiency include breastfed infants, the elderly and people with certain genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, celiac or Crohn’s disease.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include regular sickness or infection, fatigue, bone and back pain, impaired wound healing, hair loss and muscle pain. If deficiency continues for long periods, it may result in complications leading to severe health disorders. In infants and children, vitamin D deficiency may cause rickets, a disease characterized by failure of bone tissue to become properly mineralized, resulting in soft, weak, deformed and painful bones. In teens and adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, a disorder that causes bone pain and muscle weakness.

Vitamin D is critical for promoting bone health and preventing or treating osteoporosis. Through its many roles that include glucose metabolism, vitamin D is currently being investigated for its positive impact on type 2 diabetes and weight loss, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, depression, and multiple sclerosis. Several studies are underway to evaluate the role of vitamin D and comprehend the crucial part it has on preserving good health.

Screening for vitamin D status is becoming a common part of routine laboratory blood testing and is the best way to know if a person has sufficient levels of vitamin D. The test is performed via a blood draw, and the sample is then analyzed in the laboratory to calculate the levels of vitamin D in the blood. While low levels of Vitamin D affect bone health and growth, high levels of vitamin D can also be toxic as it can lead to over calcification of bones and the hardening of blood vessels, kidney, lung and heart tissues. Always consult your healthcare provider prior to and while taking supplements.

Vitamin D is essential for good health. Individuals should meet and maintain their vitamin D needs at an acceptable level through healthy diet and by spending time in the sun ― which should be done with caution as sun exposure is a risk factor for developing skin cancer. Taking supplements of vitamin D or having a higher risk for vitamin D insufficiency, requires regular monitoring of vitamin D levels. By researching and getting information from healthcare professionals regarding vitamin D and the significant role it plays in good health, individuals may find a balance and maintain normal vitamin D levels.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin D depends on the person’s age. Always consult with your healthcare provider regarding your daily intake of vitamin D.

NIPD Genetics Clinical Laboratories, which are part of GESY, are offering over 1,400 clinical laboratory tests and aim to deliver fast, accurate and reliable results to all patients. Vitamin D testing can be performed in all NIPD Genetics clinical laboratory’s locations. NIPD Genetics clinical laboratories enable easy access, and the experienced personnel is trained to respond to every need. To learn more please visit www.nipdlabs.com.cy

The content is intended only for informational purposes and should not be perceived as medical advice.

Compiled using information from:

-National Institutes of Health, Vitamin D. (NIH). [https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/]

-MAYO CLINIC, Vitamin D. [https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792]

-Medical News Today, What are the health benefits of vitamin D? [https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618]

-NHS, Vitamin D. [https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/]

References:

  1. Amrein, K., Scherkl, M., Hoffmann, M. et al. Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide. Eur J Clin Nutr 74, 1498–1513 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-0558-y