From doing the Surya Namaskar every morning to taking a morning walk, people all over the world do a range of things to spend some time in the sun daily. But do you know why that is? It’s to get enough of the “sunshine” nutrient, which you might recognize better as vitamin D!
Why you need the “sunshine” nutrient
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble essential nutrient found predominantly in sunlight and a few foods. The moment sunlight touches your skin, vitamin D synthesis starts in your body. This vital nutrient not only helps with calcium absorption in the body but also affects the overall metabolic, muscular, neurological, cardiovascular and immune function. Because it plays such a huge role in the regular function of your body and mind, insufficiency or deficiency of vitamin D can have serious repercussions for your health.
This is especially a huge problem for Indians because as a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care in 2018 showed, 80-90% Indians of all age groups suffer from vitamin D deficiency. This is a huge prevalence and the burden of vitamin D deficiency is therefore immense on this nation.
Effects of vitamin D deficiency
It must be noted that it’s not just your physical health that’s likely to be affected by vitamin D deficiency. Many studies indicate that those who have vitamin D deficiency have a much higher risk of developing depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues. A recent study in the Journal of American Medical Association shows, however, that vitamin D supplementation does not reduce the risk or incidence of depression in those above the age of 50 years.
But whether vitamin D supplementation helps reduce depression risks or not, a vitamin D deficiency does increase the risks of many other health issues and should be taken very seriously. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to the following health issues:
1. Weak bones: Severe vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets, while it causes osteoporosis or osteomalacia in adults. These conditions are marked by weak, soft bones, skeletal deformities, muscle weakness, etc. and can be extremely debilitating.
2. Infections: Vitamin D deficiency compromises and weakens the immune system, making it much easier for infections to take root. Those with this deficiency are likely to fall prey to viral upper respiratory tract infections (including COVID-19), tuberculosis, etc.
3. Autoimmune diseases: As a modulator of the immune system, vitamin D reduces the risks of autoimmune diseases. Conversely, those with vitamin D deficiency are at a much higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and psoriasis.
4. Cancer: Vitamin D regulates cell growth and health. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to a number of types of cancers, including lung, breast, colorectal, prostate, ovarian, pancreatic and oesophagal cancers.
5. Heart disease: Severe vitamin D deficiency is seen in those who have cardiovascular diseases, especially those with myocardial infarctions. A higher vitamin D level in the body means reduced risk of developing heart diseases.
Given the far-reaching effects of vitamin D deficiency, it’s very important to get enough of this vital nutrient. This can be done by getting enough sunlight, and including fortified dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, fatty fish, eggs and mushrooms in your daily diet.
For more information, read our article on Vitamin D Deficiency.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.