Vitamin D is a nutrient that falls under a group of fat soluble vitamins, the kind that are stored in the body for long periods of time. Other vitamins in the same group are A, E and K.
Such kind of vitamins are absorbed along with fats in the diet, explains Neema Shosho, a Nutritionist based in Dar es Salaam.
Do I need vitamin D?
Yes. Our bodies need vitamin D. Some of the key functions of Vitamin D is to boost immune system of our bodies (fight off invading bacteria and viruses) and to maintain strong bones.
Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium (one of bone’s main building blocks) from food and supplements.
People who get too little vitamin D may develop soft, thin, and brittle bones, a condition known as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
Children with rickets experience delayed growth, pain in the spine, pelvis and legs, muscle weakness and skeletal deformities such as bowed legs or knock knees. Vitamin D is also needed by nerves to carry messages between the brain and every part of the body.
In which foods can one get vitamin D?
Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. Good sources of vitamin D is fatty fish while small amount of vitamin D can be found in beef liver, cheese, mushrooms and egg yolks. It can also be found in some fortified foods, so read the labels carefully when you are buying such foods.
Does the sun provide vitamin D?
When skin is directly exposed to the sun, the body makes vitamin D. This way, it has helped most of us to get vitamin D naturally.
So yes, the sun is important for vitamin D synthesis.
However, we need to be careful not to be exposing ourselves to too much sunlight in order to lower the risk for skin cancer.
That is why I always advise people to go for ‘jua la asubuhi’ (early morning sun) and not waiting till the sunlight and heat is unbearable.
Remember that people who avoid the sun or who cover their bodies with sunscreen or clothing should include good sources of vitamin D in their diets or take a supplement.
Is there anything like too much vitamin D?
Yes, too much of anything is harmful, Ms Neema says. Vitamin D becomes too much when the amounts in the blood become too high and mostly occurs to people who overuse supplements.
As a result, you might experience nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, and weight loss.
• Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods.
• Exposure to sunlight is a good source of vitamin D; other sources are supplements and fortified foods.
• Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets, where the bones become soft and bent in children and osteomalacia in adults, causing bone pain and muscle weakness in adults.
• The amount of vitamin D you need each day depends on your age.
• Remember that Vitamin D is needed more as we age.