Vitamin D3 – So that the sun shines again
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble vitamins that are among the most important vitamins for our body. The most important representative of these so-called secosteroids is vitamin D3, which is also known as cholecalciferol or sun vitamin.
Vitamin D3 or vitamin D is produced 80 to 90 percent by our body. It is formed when the sun’s UVB rays hit our skin. About ten percent of the vitamin is absorbed through food.
Vitamin D is stored in the fat and muscle tissue of our body. This process creates stores for the sunless months of winter, when the body does not get enough sunlight to meet its own needs.
Vitamin D3 – the sun vitamin
Vitamin D3 is also called the sunshine vitamin, because our body only forms this important vitamin, which is responsible for many of its functions, when the sun hits the skin. Since the intensity and duration of sunlight depend on the seasons, the production of the sun vitamin in our latitudes takes place mainly in the months from March to October. In the months with little sunshine, the body obtains vitamin D from the reserves it has built up during this period.
A rule of thumb sums it up: the body does not produce vitamin D if the shade is longer than the height of the person in question.
What is the function of vitamin D in our body?
Vitamin D performs several important functions in our body. It contributes to
- to the maintenance of normal bones
- the maintenance of normal muscle function
- normal absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus
- normal blood calcium levels
- normal function of the immune system and
- the maintenance of normal teeth
- normal immune system function in children
- reduce the risk of falls due to postural instability and muscle weakness. Falls are a risk factor for bone fractures in men and women 60 years of age and older.
- Vitamin D has a function in cell division.
A key function of the sunshine vitamin is its importance in bone mineralization. Vitamin D3 has a high significance for the utilization of calcium in the bones. The sun vitamin is especially important for children because it enables them to grow healthily.
How can you recognize a vitamin D3 deficiency?
Our body receives light, warmth and positive energy from the sun’s rays on our skin. When vitamin D production declines during the fall and winter months, deficiencies can occur that cannot be compensated for by diet alone.
Typical signs that the body may be lacking vitamin D3 are
- Concentration problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Circulatory problems
- Hair loss
- tooth loss
- slower wound healing or
- a susceptibility to bone fractures
However, these symptoms can also be signs of deficiencies in other nutrients. Therefore, it can be difficult to clearly diagnose low levels of vitamin D in the body without testing.
What can be done to help the body with a vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D3 deficiency is very common. According to estimates, more than one billion people worldwide suffer from a deficiency of the sun vitamin. Especially in Germany, our body has too little sunlight available for the production of the important vitamin during the winter months. Due to the lower light levels, the body first uses up the reserves it has built up during the summer months before it tends to become deficient.
To avoid deficiency symptoms, it is therefore advisable to substitute foods or dietary supplements containing the important vitamin during the sunless months in order to supply the body with additional vitamin D in this way.
Vitamin D through food and dietary supplements
A natural source of vitamin D, in addition to sunlight, is dietary intake through foods that contain the valuable vitamin. However, only five to 20 percent of the total requirement for vitamin D3 can usually be met through food. This again shows very clearly how important direct exposure of the skin to sunlight is for vitamin D formation. On sunny days in summer, the body’s daily requirement is covered several times over by UVB radiation alone, so that a sufficient amount of the sun vitamin can be formed in the months from March to October to be available as a reserve for the winter months.
There are only a few foods that have a significant content of the sun vitamin. Products that contain vitamin D include
- Butter and milk
- Tuna fish
- Oily fish
- Cod liver oil
- Stone and shiitake mushrooms
But even with a good reserve of vitamin D, it becomes difficult for the body to get through the winter months with the UVB rays available in Germany without deficiency symptoms. Even our diet alone can hardly cover an undersupply of vitamin D3. For sufficient coverage of the requirement, it is therefore recommended to take vitamin D supplements during the dark season.
How much vitamin D3 does the body need?
The body’s own formation of the sun vitamin varies and depends on the individual. There are several factors that influence light intensity and thus vitamin D3 formation in the skin. These include, for example, latitude, skin type, sun protection factor of the sunscreen, time of day and season, weather, altitude of the current location above sea level, clothing, length of time spent outdoors, or even ozone and smog.
As an estimated value for an adequate supply for children, adolescents and adults, the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.” (DGE) gives an amount of 20 micrograms (800 I.E) of vitamin D per day.
Conclusion: Between March and October, we should take advantage of the sunlight in our latitudes in order to build up as many reserves of vitamin D3 as possible for the sunless months. According to general recommendations, in order to absorb UVB rays, the face, hands, arms and also larger areas such as the legs, abdomen and back should regularly come into contact with sunlight two to three times a week.
Since our body has too little sunlight available for the production of vitamin D during the winter months in Germany, we should make sure to support it with vitamin D3 through an appropriate diet and dietary supplements during the sunless months.