(NaturalNews) Vitamin D has received a lot of attention lately. As its health implications become more and more apparent through research, it is becoming evident that a significant proportion of the population has inadequate blood levels of the vitamin. It is estimated that up to 58% of US adolescents and adults are deficient. Chronic vitamin D deficiency and its consequences represent a major public health challenge. This article is intended to increase understanding of vitamin D and promote awareness of its connection to health and well-being, through a series of questions and answers.
Vitamin D actually refers to a number of distinct, but related compounds. Differentiating between these compounds is necessary in order to fully appreciate this important substance. When exposed to sunlight, the skin synthesizes cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3. Cholecalciferol can also be taken as a supplement. After it is produced in the skin or ingested, it undergoes a two-step modification by the liver and kidneys. The first step yields calcidiol, which serves as an intermediate, storage form. Calcidiol is later activated to become calcitriol, which functions as a steroid hormone in the body.
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D has been synthesized by life on earth for more than 750 million years. This fact alone suggests that vitamin D is a fundamental component of physiology and health. The vitamin D receptor (VDR) is located inside virtually every cell in the body. It is the target of activated calcitriol. After calcitriol binds to its receptor, the resulting complex functions to regulate DNA expression. This process affects more than 2000 genes. Some genes are activated and others are suppressed by the action of vitamin D. Through such genetic control, vitamin D ultimately directs the activity of hundreds of enzymes and proteins. This is perhaps the strongest evidence for its vital role.
What are the Effects of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is well known for its role in calcium absorption and bone metabolism. However, this is only one of many important health benefits that vitamin D has to offer. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory effects, anti-cancer activity and its ability to strengthen the immune system. The capacity to regulate DNA itself means that vitamin D influences the very foundations of biochemistry, giving it the power to positively impact all body systems and harness the body's innate healing ability.
What Evidence Exists for the Benefits of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with at least 17 varieties of cancer, along with many other chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and chronic pain. This may appear to be a tremendous claim. However, the relationship between vitamin D and disease is easy to recognize once you understand that it is integrated into our physiology, acting as one of the keys to normal cellular activity.