Vitamin D is not only important for just bones and teeth but also muscle function, immune function and organs such as kidneys and the heart.
Dr George Ruzigana, an intern medical doctor at Butare University Hospital, says that Vitamin D is an important nutrient required for the body function.
The doctor says that there is a proven link between Vitamin D and cancer of the breast, prostrate and colon. He explains that lack of Vitamin D causes osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, and even depression.
Vitamin D is the only vitamin the body is capable of making from sunlight. Dr Ruzigana adds that Vitamin D can be powerful medicine, and gave an example of a time a patient came to the hospital three months ago with Vitamin D deficiency.
The patient was crippled and with bone pain; but once his Vitamin D was back to normal levels, the pain totally disappeared.
It is therefore important to note that Vitamin D deficiency poses an increased risk of many common and serious diseases, including some common cancers, type 1 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
The doctor also reveals that exposure to sunlight, which enhances the production of Vitamin D3 in the skin, is important in preventing many chronic diseases.
And because very few foods contain natural Vitamin D, sunlight supplies most of this particular vitamin requirement. Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in infants who are solely breastfed and who do not receive Vitamin D supplementation, and in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation or who always wear sun protection and limit their outdoor activities.
The doctor further adds that greater awareness of the insidious consequences of Vitamin D deficiency in the community is needed. Today, a new dietary source of Vitamin D is orange juice fortified with Vitamin D.
There are other few sources of Vitamin D from the foods we eat, for example cod liver oil and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines - all good sources of Vitamin D.
But it is important to learn that to satisfy the body’s requirement for Vitamin D, most humans obtain it from casual exposure to sunlight.
Humans need an adequate source of calcium and Vitamin D because without it, the small intestines absorb no more than 10-15% of dietary calcium.
Vitamin D deficiency during bone development and growth causes the bone deforming disease rickets. Vitamin D deficiency in adults causes secondary hyperparathyroidism that can precipitate and exacerbate osteoporosis.
The secondary hyperparathyroidism associated with Vitamin D deficiency often maintains the serum calcium concentration within the normal range, but it causes a loss of phosphorus in the urine.
Breast feeding mothers are always advised to get enough Vitamin D because there is often very little of it in human milk. Thus, they always need a supplement to prevent their children from suffering from rickets.
The elderly are at risk for want of Vitamin D because of poor dietary Vitamin D intake and decreased exposure to sunlight. Recent scientific research reveals that obesity is often associated with Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is deposited in large body fat stores and kept there, and this is probably the reason why obese persons are chronically Vitamin D deficient.