What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that are responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It’s sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin, because it’s produced when your skin encounters sunlight. The most important compound in this group is Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is vital for the body as it regulates the calcium and phosphorus levels in your blood. You need these to ensure you have healthy bones and a strong immune system.
How Does Your Body Absorb Vitamin D?
The human body is able to absorb vitamin D through the small intestine. This is the most common route of absorption for most minerals. Vitamin D is then transported to the liver via the bloodstream and is converted to 25(OH)D, otherwise known as Calcidiol, the primary form of circulating vitamin D. Few foods contain vitamin D naturally, therefore food manufacturers have created fortified foods which contain enhanced levels of the vitamin. An example of these foods are cereals and dairy products.
Foods that contain naturally higher levels of vitamin D include salmon, egg yolk, prawns and sardines.
Your body is also able to create vitamin D to help regulate the body. Vitamin D falls under the category of a steroid hormone. It originates from the skin and the liver and kidneys and produce it.
When the skin is exposed to the sun, UVB, an ultraviolet wave that is emitted from the sun, triggers a biochemical reaction. This initiates the production of vitamin D. Cholesterol is the precursor in this process and you can find it in the skin. It is transformed into 7-Dehydro-cholesterol and when exposed to UVB radiation it then becomes cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3). At this stage, like the food source, it is metabolised in the liver and kidneys.
Benefits of Vitamin D
Along with the primary benefits of vitamin D – regulating the body – there are other benefits of getting enough of this vitamin. For instance, vitamin D may play a role in fighting various diseases. These include heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and even the flu.
Vitamin D is also said to help with depression. Studies have shown that vitamin D may assist with regulating your mood, and can therefore help alleviate the symptoms of those suffering from depression. In a study of people with fibromyalgia, researchers found that those experiencing depression and anxiety were more likely to also have a vitamin D deficiency.
Clinical trials have also proven that strong levels of Vitamin D can boost weight loss. In one study, subjects taking vitamin D supplements were able to lose more weight than other subjects taking a placebo. The scientist behind this study claimed that the extra calcium and vitamin D suppressed appetite.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
You may not get a lot of vitamin D, due to things like spending a lot of time indoors, having darker skin naturally, using sunscreen, or living in an area with high pollution levels. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, performing a blood test should be able to diagnose this. Symptoms may include:
- Aches and pains
- Severe bone and muscle pain/weakness
- Stress fractures, particularly in the hips, legs and pelvis
If you are diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, you will most likely be prescribed daily supplements. Your doctor may also have your bones x-rayed, in order to check the strength of your bones.
Does This Mean My Body Can Produce Vitamin D From Sunbeds?
Studies have been completed to determine if this is the case. These studies have shown that it is possible to enhance the production of Vitamin D in the body being on a sunbed. This is due to the fact that they emit UVB radiation. This is the specific type of radiation that triggers the biochemical reaction explained above.
However, as a method just to enhance Vitamin D intake, medical professionals advise against sunbedding. This is due to the other risk factors associated with sunbeds. UVA radiation creates the tanning effect on the skin. Consequently, we know it causes DNA damage and is carcinogenic. Therefore, as cancers and DNA damage are a high risk to human health, medical professionals will always recommend avoiding sunbeds to increase Vitamin D. They will instead advise other options to take.
The bottom line is that yes, your body can develop Vitamin D from being on a sunbed. The UV radiation emitted from a sunbed can start the process of Vitamin D production. However medical professionals advise the consequences of sun bedding are more severe than not having as much Vitamin D. So they recommend going outside to get natural sunlight or enhancing your levels by taking supplements.