The Importance Of Vitamins & Minerals, Sunny Days & Vitamin D
Most people know that vitamins & minerals are important, but
why are they important?
Well the fact is your body requires them to perform millions of physiological processes to keep you healthy and alive.
Vitamins & minerals are a basic need for the body – the same as water and macronutrients.
So what are vitamins & minerals exactly?
Vitamins are required by living organisms to grow and function efficiently. Organisms are unable to produce vitamins and have to obtain them from diet, bacteria in the gut or sunlight.
Some vitamins are water soluble and others are fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins dissolve easily in water so any excess can be easily excreted through urine.
Other vitamins are fat soluble and require dietary fats for absorption. Fat soluble vitamins are not so easy removed from the body and over consumption (excess supplementation) can cause vitamin poisoning.
There are 9 water soluble vitamins of which 8 are B vitamins and the 9th is vitamin C.
There are 4 types of fat soluble vitamins which are vitamins A,D,E and K.
Minerals form naturally in the earth and your body requires them for many physiological functions such as regulating your heartbeat, building bone and producing hormones.
The minerals your body needs are sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, phosphorus, calcium and sulphur. Your body does require these minerals to function efficiently, and they are known as macrominerals.
Your body also requires trace minerals in small amounts. These trace minerals are zinc, cobalt, fluoride, iodine, copper, iron, manganese and selenium.
I have been an advocate of vitamin D for a long time but recently government experts are stating that everyone should supplement vitamin D.
The Department of Health recommends that:
all pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (0.01mg) of vitamin D, to ensure the mother’s requirements for vitamin D are met and to build adequate foetal stores for early infancyall babies and young children aged six months to five years should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops, to help them meet the requirement set for this age group of 7-8.5 micrograms (0.007-0.0085mg) of vitamin D a daybabies fed infant formula will not need vitamin drops until they are receiving less than 500ml (about a pint) of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin Dbreastfed infants may need to receive drops containing vitamin D from one month of age, if their mother has not taken vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy
People should also take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms (0.01mg) of vitamin D if they:
are aged 65 years or overaren’t exposed to much sun – for example, those who cover up their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods
Official estimates suggest that one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels.
We gain most of our vitamin D from sunlight, so during the winter months, and let’s face facts; sometimes even in the summer months people in the UK are at risk of low levels of exposure.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient and one of 24 micronutrients critical for human survival.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin. The body makes most of the vitamin D it needs; only about 10% comes from our food.
The action of sunlight on our skin produces a substance called cholecalciferol, which is converted by the liver to calcidiol. This is further converted in the kidneys by the enzyme 1α-hydroxylase to calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D. Calcidiol is considered a good indicator of vitamin D levels and is the form that is usually measured by doctors.
We do not get a great deal of quality sunshine in the UK, and what do we do when the sun does shine? We slap on sunscreen. For many of us we are doing this to be health conscious, we slap on the sunscreen until we are so white we look dead.
So why do we do this?
Well according to the experts the longer we are in the sun the more we damage our skin and increase the chances of developing skin cancer.
So what did our ancestors do? They did not have sunscreen. And the fact is, skin cancer rates are exponentially higher now.
Research has found that only 5-10% of cancer can be attributed to radiation of which the sun is a small part.
Another 5-10% can be attributed to genetic defects with the remaining attributed to bad lifestyle choices such as smoking, obesity and poor diet, pollutants, stress and infections.
So generally being in the sun is not harmful. And as our bodies are unable to produce vitamin D without sunlight it is important we expose ourselves to sunlight during the day.
Recreational sun bathing and sun burns go hand in hand and are associated with an increased risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin D plays a huge role in fighting disease in our bodies and deficiency is associated with a wide range of diseases such as multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, heart disease, some cancers.
A good reason to supplement Vitamin D!