There are thirteen vitamins that our body needs one by one to stay as healthy as possible. But which vitamin is now the most important thing? It seems strongly that this is vitamin D.
Vitamin D is actually a strange duck in the vitamin liver. It is one of the few vitamins our body can make: under the influence of UV radiation from sunlight , cholesterol is converted into vitamin D in our skin .
Most other vitamins are also substances that the body needs, but can not make itself. Furthermore, vitamin D looks more like a hormone than a vitamin, both in terms of chemical composition and functions in the body. It is also a vitamin that many people can use a little extra. Because the production in the skin is usually not enough.
Strong: teeth, bones, muscles
What does vitamin D do then? The best known is the role that the substance plays in the construction of the bones and the teeth . The building materials for bone and teeth are calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D ensures that these minerals from our diet are absorbed by the body and built into the bones and teeth.
Those who grew up with a daily spoonful of cod liver oil can happily praise themselves. Cod liver oil is bursting with vitamin D, which was previously unavailable in neutral tasting pills, capsules or drops as nowadays. Vitamin D stimulates the growth and building of strong bones in children. And the stronger the bones at a young age, the smaller the risk that you will suffer from bone loss and brittle bones in later life.
But that’s not all. We also need vitamin D for proper functioning of our muscles. And that is not just the muscles in the trunk, arms and legs, but also the heart muscle . Muscle weakness and muscle cramps are the first symptoms of a deficiency of vitamin D. Some experts even think that the decline in muscle strength in the elderly is not only due to age, but also partly due to a lack of vitamin D. Strong muscles provide a better balance and therefore for less chance of falls. Vitamin D therefore reduces the risk of bone fractures in two ways: by reducing the risk of bone loss and by keeping the muscles strong.
Arm against bacteria
In recent years, vitamin D has been in the interest of scientists. Research has made it increasingly clear that vitamin D does more than just provide strong bones and teeth. This super vitamin is – just like vitamin C – also necessary for resistance to diseases.
The body needs vitamin D to adequately respond to inflammation. Vitamin D stimulates protein production that makes bacteria harmless.
Better thinking, less depressed
Vitamin D also seems to affect the brain. For example, people with low levels of vitamin D have a greater chance of depression . This is shown by a Dutch survey among almost 1,300 people aged sixty-five. Vitamin D also seems to be necessary for the mind, according to a survey of more than 5,500 French women of an average of 80 years. The women who received enough vitamin D through their diet scored better on brain function tests than the women who received little vitamin D. A British survey among more than 850 sixty-five people supports this. It showed that a vitamin D deficiency gives a 60 percent greater chance of deteriorating the mind .
Enjoying the sun!
Researchers now focus on vitamin D and cardiovascular disease , diabetes , multiple sclerosis and various forms of cancer . There are indications, for example, that people with sufficient vitamin D in the blood have lower blood pressure and a lower risk of colon cancer .
According to KWF Kankerbestrijding there is also a possible relationship between vitamin D and various forms of cancer. In their report ‘Relation cancer, sunlight and vitamin D’ from 2010, the conclusion is: exposure to sunlight is associated with a lower risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer , probably because vitamin D is created through sunlight in the skin. In the past, KWF warned only against the sun (in connection with the risk of skin cancer ), nowadays the motto is: ‘Enjoy the sun, but make sure you do not burn.’
The Health Council also advises to go outside at least 15 minutes a day with uncovered head and hands, so that the skin can benefit from the effects of UV rays. For reassurance: bracing icy cold is not necessary. The sun is only bright enough in the Netherlands from April to October to stimulate the skin to produce vitamin D. A rule of thumb: the skin only makes vitamin D if your shadow is shorter than you.
Tip for women
More and more creams for the face and hands contain a UV filter that protects against sunlight by a factor of 15. A protective factor of 8 already means that no more vitamin D is produced in the skin. Daily UV protection is therefore good to prevent skin aging, but it increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Therefore: protect the skin with a UV filter only if you stay in the sun for more than fifteen minutes.
Often needed: extra D
A lack of vitamin D occurs in all layers of the population, but with the increase of age, the risk of a shortage also increases. In the Netherlands, an estimated half of all elderly people have a deficiency of vitamin D. And among residents of nursing homes that can even reach 85 percent.
How is that possible? There is very little vitamin D in our diet. Good sources are oily fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel and buckwheat. Furthermore, there is a small amount of vitamin D in meat, dairy and eggs and it is added to low-fat margarine, margarine and baking and frying fats. But how much can you eat on a daily basis? For the majority of the required vitamin D we are therefore dependent on the production in the skin. And that goes back to aging. In addition, older people are less likely to come out. The Nutrition Center therefore advises daily vitamin D for women aged 50 and over, and men aged 70 and older, every day – winter and summer.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is best absorbed during digestion if there is also some fat or oil. Take a supplement with the meal, because there is always a little fat. Or choose vitamin D in an oil-filled capsule. There are two forms of vitamin D: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms are active, but vitamin D3 has a stronger effect than D2.