A Quick Look Through:
Vitamin D (vitD) is known as the sunshine vitamin. Any small exposure to it is enough for our body to produce vitD, courtesy of cholesterol and ultraviolet light in the skin. Due to its capacity to generate inside the human body, it is mostly considered as a hormone rather than a vitamin. The role of vitD in improving overall health is something we can never undermine. Vitamin-xD impacts the function of immune system, proliferation of cells, differentiation and apoptosis, and is absorbed with fats into the intestine via passive diffusion. The rate of absorption of vitamin-D is about 50%, and the vitamin produced by the skin enters the blood vessels and is transported by D-binding protein (DBP) or transcalciferin (Mahan, L. Kathleen, 2004). In the most recent times, research studies reported that hypovitaminosis D consists of long-term constraints like regulation of the immune system, muscular system, the liver and pancreas. For that fact, deficiency of vitD leads to chronic ailments like cancers and obesity (Ruiz-Ojeda, Francisco Javier et al, 2018).
Nevertheless, little is known about the function of vitamin-D – other than bone health. Many genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified the role of genes GC, and DHCR7/NADSYN1, AMDHD1, SEC23A, with positive serum levels of vitamin D. A recent study in whole genome sequencing (WGS) coupled with genome-wide genotyping has discovered a variant CYP2R1 which gives instructions for producing enzyme 25-hydroxylase.
This enzyme converts vitD to calcitriol, its active form.Researchers reported that, a regular variant of vitamin D-binding protein (VDBP) rs4588 and rs7041 were known to have genotyped by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The particular research concluded that alleles of GC (rs4588 and rs7041) are not related to low levels of vitD, which indicates the inadequate vitamin-D levels in the population. (Khan Hayat et al, 2015).
The quality of structural changes in Vitamin D elucidated by genetics is very little and the presumptive relationship between vitamin D with other diseases stands to be determined at a much deeper level in science (Jiang, Xia et al, 2019).
Deficiency Symptoms of Vitamin-D:
Vitamin D is naturally available in food sources like eggs, milk, fish, and shrimp. The deficiency of vitD leads to the following consequences.
- Muscle weakness
- Weakened immune system
- Retardation of growth and deformation in bone in children
- Seasonal depression
- Cancers of prostrate, breast, and colon, leading to mortality
- High risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy
(Source: Chapter 3, The Nutrients and Their Metabolism, Mahan, L. Kathleen. Krause’s food, nutrition, & diet therapy. Ed. Sylvia Escott-Stump. Vol. 11. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2004).
Vitamin D Has The Following Three Important Roles:
Role as an Essential Micro-nutrient:
As an essential micronutrient, vitD is needed for sustained health throughout life. Cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, can be acquired through diet and via exposure to sun. In case of low exposure to sun (during winters), the requirements increase. Chronic deficiency of vitD can lead to osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, and cancers. Depending on the geographic location, the requirement of vitD changes. As per the global vitamin D map by The International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), 6.7% of the population has levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D plasma below 25nmol/L, an indicator of deficiency. Other than malnutrition, we have a dire situation where we do not meet the required vitD levels. This is called hidden hunger. A good way today to meet the vitD needs is via fortification. In countries like Canada, fortification is compulsory for milk, and non-compulsory for products like milk and cereal in the USA (Bendik Igor et al, 2018).
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Role in Exercise and Sport Performance:
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in improving the muscle function and physical performance of an athlete when supplemented with vitD capsules. Reports in research revealed that 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood levels between 30 and 50 ng/mL are linked with a decrease in inflammation, pain, and myopathy. The same levels have lead to an increase in adenosine triphosphate levels, synthesis of proteins, the height of the jump, velocity of jump, strength and power of jump, etc. Research has also revealed that sportspersons who report for musculoskeletal pain, stress fractures, or regular illness should be assessed for vitD deficiency. Most importantly, adequate care with regards to the supplementation of the vitamin has to be taken with athletes who do not have a deficiency of the vitamin in order to prevent hyper-performance (Volpe Stella Lucia, 2014).
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Role in Wellness and Recovery:
Vitamin D plays a significant role in improving the overall wellness of our body. Researchers in the past have found a certain association between low vitD levels and pain – chronic, general. A majority of the physicians estimated that almost all their patients with chronic pain have a deficiency of vitD. In the phase of recovery, the concentrations of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels could help in decreasing muscular weakness after and acute of chronic bouts of intense exercise.
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Risk Factors of Vitamin – D Deficiency:
To clarify the above, the deficiency of vitD is a major public health issue and without proper corrective actions, the situation may get worse due to various habits in lifestyle like unhealthy diet. It is the duty of governments to put in place certain regulations framed by bodies like Endocrine Society towards successful prevention and treatment of vitD deficiency across all age groups.
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- Bendik, Igor, et al. “Vitamin D: a critical and essential micronutrient for human health.” Frontiers in physiology 5 (2014): 248.
- Hamilton, Bruce. “Vitamin D and athletic performance: the potential role of muscle.” Asian journal of sports medicine vol. 2, 4 (2011): 211-9.
- Holick, Michael F., et al. “Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society clinical practice guideline.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96.7 (2011): 1911-1930.
- Hossein-nezhad, Arash, and Michael F Holick. “Vitamin D for health: a global perspective.” Mayo Clinic proceedings vol. 88, 7 (2013): 720-55. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.05.011
- Jiang, Xia, Douglas P. Kiel, and Peter Kraft. “The genetics of vitamin D.” Bone 126 (2019): 59-77.
- Khan, Hayat, Azhar Masood Qureshi, and Sheeba Murad. “Vitamin D binding protein gene variants rs4588 and rs7041 and low serum concentration of 25-hydroxy (OH) vitamin D3 in type-2 diabetes patients: a pilot study.” SCIENCE LETTERS3.1 (2015): 39-41.
- Mahan, L. Kathleen. Krause’s food, nutrition, & diet therapy. Ed. Sylvia Escott-Stump. Vol. 11. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2004).
- Malloy, Peter J, and David Feldman. “Genetic disorders and defects in vitamin d action.” Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North Americavol. 39, 2 (2010): 333-46, table of contents. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2010.02.004
- Ruiz-Ojeda, Francisco Javier, et al. “Genetic factors and molecular mechanisms of vitamin D and obesity relationship.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 73 (2018): 89-99.
- Volpe, Stella Lucia. “Vitamin D and Exercise Performance.” ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 18.3 (2014): 28-30.
- Zhang, Yuling, et al. “The GC, CYP2R1 and DHCR7 genes are associated with vitamin D levels in northeastern Han Chinese children.” Swiss medical weekly 142.2930 (2012).
About the Author
Ravi Mandapaka is a Content Writer at Mapmygenome. He has rich experience in researching and writing, having published articles in research journals in domains across life-sciences and literature. He is a reviewer for many international journals, Assistant Editor — International Journal of Home Science, and Editor — Ashwamegh, Indian Journal of English Literature. An aficionado of Field Hockey and Football, he is a regular columnist at The Sports Column and Sportskeeda. He has a Master’s Degree in Food Science and Nutrition and decent experience in academia. He was part of the research team at ICMR National Institute of Nutrition. He is a member of the Nutrition Society of India (NSI) and Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (India) (AFSTI).