When it comes to health, we should take a hint from the Japanese. It seems like everything they do health-wise is working. Studies indicate that these Asians have the highest longevity rate among all the world’s population. They eat and live healthy depending mostly on what nature has to offer. After all, these are free.
One such free resource is sunshine and this will never run out. Research shows that the Japanese have lower rates of diseases, especially cancer because they have high levels of the “sunshine vitamin” in their systems. The same study has concluded that vitamin D can, indeed, protect us against cancer aside from its other benefits which include maintaining calcium levels in our bones and helping boost the proper functioning of the immune system, the nervous system, and the muscular system.
We have been taught since the grade years that sunlight is our main source of vitamin D, which we referred to earlier as the “sunshine vitamin.” Rich sources of vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. Dairy products are also good sources. In case the RDA isn’t met, we can always resort to supplements and these are readily available. Low levels of vitamin D in your body can put you at risk of contracting cancer.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of pro-hormones which are fat-soluble and are responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, phosphate, and magnesium. This means that this nutrient helps a person’s body utilize phosphorus and calcium to make stronger teeth and bones. Our skin’s exposure to sunlight can help generate vitamin D although we can also get it from the certain foods in our diets and through supplements. A deficiency in the nutrient can cause the weakening of bones which can lead to a condition known as rickets which occurs in children or osteomalacia in grown-ups. There are two kinds of vitamin D which are essential in the function of certain processes in the human body:
- Vitamin D2 also known as ergocalciferol is naturally made by plants.
- Vitamin D3 also known as cholecalciferol is naturally produced by your body when the skin gets exposed to UV rays in sunlight.
Both these forms of vitamin D get converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D in a person’s liver. This compound is then carried by the person’s blood to his kidneys where it’s further converted to calcitriol or 1.25 dihydroxy vitamin D. This is the form of vitamin D which is considered as active and that the body can use. Measuring the amount of calcitriol will give you the vitamin D level in your body. There are several sources of vitamin D:
- Most of us get through exposure to sunlight.
- Dietary sources of the vitamin are found in fatty fish, eggs, and fish oils.
- We can also get it from fortified foods like milk, breakfast cereals, and juices.
- Finally, a convenient way to acquire the RDA of vitamin D is through supplements.
Some of us may assume that taking excessive amounts of vitamin D can give us more benefits. This, of course, is a falsity because too much of the nutrient can have toxic effects on the body. Just imagine if you have too much vitamin D. This will definitely increase the calcium levels which will lead to a disorder called calcinosis where calcium salts will start accumulating in the body’s soft tissues like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Such excess can also lead to hypercalcemia where there will be high levels of calcium in the blood. This is especially true if someone takes too much vitamin D supplements. High intakes of dietary foods containing vitamin D will not cause much of a problem but excessive intake of vitamin D supplements could be toxic. Even excessive exposures to sunlight will not cause vitamin D problems but we should also be wary that too much sun is not a recommendation because this can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.