Widely known as the sunshine vitamin, there is a reason vitamin D is so easy for our bodies to synthesise in the summer months — we need it for a huge variety of functions. Yet, chances are that you are low in it, since it is estimated around one billion people worldwide are deficient or have insufficient levels. So what is vitamin D? Interestingly, it is not simply a fat soluble vitamin that is produced endogenously when UV rays reach our skin at the correct angle, it is actually also a hormone. Its various forms have a range of names; including calcitriol, ergocalciferol, calcidiol, and cholecalciferol.
The presence of vitamin D in foods does not provide much to note, but luckily it is one of the most affordable nutrients to supplement, and the body can find uses for this hormone/vitamin all the way from birth until we are elderly. This is particularly noteworthy as supplementing vitamin D can be important in Ireland — we do not create it in our bodies during the winter months, and the SPF we use when we are in sunshine can also block the process (some studies have shown that tattoos could also do this ).
Vitamin D is a co-factor and assistant in a long list of biological processes, but here are some of the top uses: vitamin D promotes calcium absorption (and is needed for both bone growth and to work towards stopping bones becoming brittle ). It can support our immune systems, is related in ways to the maintenance of healthy cholesterol levels, and of course avoiding a deficiency in vitamin D means avoiding the associated disorders like rickets.
It is also thought to be related to our mental wellbeing — in fact we now think that vitamin D activates genes that may release neurotransmitters (eg, dopamine, serotonin ) that affect brain function. This could lead to a more concrete relationship between vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder in future, as we learn more about why specific times of year and seasons can trigger mood disorders. If you would like to learn more about vitamin D and its uses, talk to the fully trained staff at any of the Evergreen stores, or visit Evergreen.ie