Vitamin D is being recognised more and more as an essential vitamin that is found to be beneficial in building stronger bones and teeth, modulating cell growth, supporting immune system function and contributing to normal muscle function.
Vitamin D deficiency has been documented in many populations worldwide, including children. The main source of vitamin D comes from direct exposure to the sun. However, even in sunny countries like South Africa, vitamin D deficiency still exists because sunscreen, cloud cover, pollution, clothing and even glass greatly reduce vitamin D absorption. In South Africa, during five of the twelve months a year – May to September – the sun’s rays are too weak to allow for effective vitamin D production. This highlights the importance of vitamin D supplementation for people of all ages but with specific reference to infants with minimal exposure to sunlight and children who do not receive enough sun exposure especially due to the current health concerns.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various disease entities and supplementation is therefore an essential factor in the maintenance of good health.
Benefits of Vitamin D3
– Promotes the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus
Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralisation of bone.
– Modulates immune function and reduces inflammation
Almost all cells in the body possess vitamin D receptors, including cells of the immune system. Vitamin D has effects on the developing immune system.
– Modulates neuromuscular function
Vitamin D affects neuromuscular control and neural co-ordination, supporting a neurotrophic effect of vitamin D. Therefore, improvements in balance performance could be mediated through a neural effect.
Sources of Vitamin D
Very few foods actually contain vitamin D. The sources listed below highlight that many people may not be getting adequate amounts of vitamin D from their diets. This is due to the limited variety of food that actually contains vitamin D. The foods that do contain vitamin D may not be consumed by everyone on a daily basis (especially in children’s diets – so it’s key that if they are picky eaters or don’t obtain enough from their diet that they take a vitamin D supplement).
· Soy Milk
|· Cod Liver Oil
· Fortified Cereals
Who is at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
- Individuals with minimal exposure to sunlight like children who spend most of their time indoors, or who wear long robes and coverings for religious reasons, or who have minimal exposure to sunlight due to current health concerns e.g. skin cancer, are likely to obtain inadequate vitamin D from sunlight.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women as pregnant women need higher levels of vitamin D to assist with bone mineralisation and effective calcium absorption for bone formation.
- Individuals with a dark skin as they have greater amounts of the pigment melanin in the epidermal layer of their skin which reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
- Crohn’s or Celiac disease because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, its absorption depends on the gut’s ability to absorb dietary fat.
- Infants who are breastfed without supplemental vitamin D or who have minimal exposure to sunlight due to current health concerns.