Vitamin D is an important nutrient that aids in overall health by keeping bones strong and healthy. The body requires vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are crucial in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Although some studies seem to indicate that adequate levels of vitamin D can strengthen the immune system and protect against various health conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and high blood pressure, there is no definitive data to support that conclusion.
The body can absorb vitamin D in three ways:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Eating vitamin D-fortified foods
- Taking vitamin D supplements
The amount of vitamin D a person requires varies based on age, weight, skin color, genetic makeup and chronic medical conditions (if any). Pregnant and nursing women, breast-fed infants, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions may require more vitamin D in their diets than is typically recommended.
A vitamin D deficiency may occur if there is an extremely low level of vitamin D in the body. When the body is low in vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus cannot be absorbed, which can cause serious health problems. Children who do not get enough vitamin D are at risk for developing a bone disorder known as rickets, which causes bones to soften and break easily. For those with vitamin D deficiencies, taking vitamin D supplements may be recommended.
Vitamin D can be consumed naturally through foods such as green leafy vegetables, eggs, dairy products, fatty fish and vitamin D-fortified cereals.