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Vitamin D

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By Dr. Nandita Shah

vitamin d

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Vitamin D

by Dr. Nandita Shah

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies create this important vitamin when the skin is exposed to the sun. The deficiency of this vitamin is becoming more common in cities all over the world.

This is because many people spend most of their time living and working indoors and avoid the sun or use sunscreen because of the fear of skin cancer. Smog and pollution in cities can also block the sun’s rays. Indians prefer not to get darker and also avoid the sunlight. In a random study of people from Indian metro cities, we found that 50% had Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is very important for calcium absorption. It also helps boost immunity by fortifying the white blood cells, which defend against bacteria. In addition, it has anti-inflammatory properties.

A link has been made between influenza and Vitamin D deficiency in countries which experience long winters with low levels of sunlight (Source). Depression, mental health problems and Seasonal Affective Disorder have also been linked to low Vitamin D levels in patients (Source).

Other diseases which can be caused by a deficiency in Vitamin D include high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, excess fat accumulation around vital organs, different types of cancer, atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries), osteoporosis (deterioration of bone mass) and osteopenia (thinning of bones).

There are two types of Vitamin D. Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) is found in a few foods like fatty fish. In some countries, fruit juices, milk or cereals are often fortified with this vitamin. Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) is what is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It is difficult to get enough Vitamin D through food sources. This is why sunshine is the best option. And it’s free!

The best way to get Vitamin D is from the sun. Spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in direct sunlight, 3 to 5 times a week. Do not wear sunscreen during this time as this will prevent your skin from absorbing the vitamin. Taking Vitamin D supplements can cause hypervitaminosis D, which can be dangerous.

However, you can never get too much Vitamin D from the sun. (But do avoid sunburn by limiting exposure.) If you are eating plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, the anti-oxidants in these will help prevent sunburn and also reduce the risk of skin and other cancers.

Vitamin D is stored by the body. If you have enough stores, you can get by on cloudy days without any problems. If you’re concerned that you may be Vitamin D deficient, and have symptoms like depression, chronic fatigue, weight loss and muscle ache get a test done to determine your level of Vitamin D.

In places with long winters, or cloudy or smoggy weather, it’s very important to get Vitamin D levels checked. In case of deficiency, supplementation is required but even then levels should be checked to avoid over-dosage.

A blood test can be done to check Vitamin D3 levels. 15 to 50 ng/ml is the normal range. Less than 15 is too low. In this case, one should take supplements. Once the level reaches around 30+ sunlight will be the best source.

In India commercially available Vitamin D3 is not vegan since it is usually made from lanolin fat from sheep’s wool. Vegan Vitamin D2 is made from vegan sources like yeast and mushrooms and has been available but there is some debate on the virtues of D2 over D3. Many say Vitamin D3 is more easily used than vitamin D2. Luckily now some vegan Vitamin D3 is available in India.

Supplementation can be oral or by injection. If the values are very low, injections may be best.


Note: Vitamin D levels take some time to build up after depletion.

Requirements of Vitamin D:

1 to 70 years of age: 600 to 1000 IU per day

More than 70 years: 800 to 2000 IU per day

5000 IU per day for 9 weeks can be advised for deficiency.


To read more:


Vitamin B12 deficiency – all you need to know


Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of or its staff. Read our full disclaimer here.


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