Vitamin D deficiency can have many effects on your body and may lead to weight gain, a weak immune system, brittle bones and even depression. Thanks to skin protection and changing work environments you are most likely not receiving the necessary dose of vitamin D to keep your body healthy. What is vitamin D’s function in your body, where do you get it from and what are the side effects when you are lacking it?
Vitamin D and its function
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It means that it is absorbed with fat in your intestines and stored in your liver for later use. It aids the absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphates and is important for strong bones and muscles. Vitamin D may aid in improving your memory, decrease depression and increase your brain function.
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is naturally derived from the sun’s ultra violet (UV) light. Your body is able to produce its own vitamin D with the aid of UV light. There are very small amounts of vitamin D in foods such as fungi (mushrooms), eggs, fish or meat. Other sources of Vitamin D are supplements or foods fortified with vitamin D. Read more in vitamin D sources here
Vitamin D deficiency and the effect on your body
Low vitamin D levels can have diverse effects on your body as it has many functions. Vitamin D aids the process of calcium, magnesium and phosphorous and helps fight off viruses and bacteria. Side effects of low vitamin D levels may be brittle bones and resulting diseases such as Rickets or Osteoporosis. Some data show side effects such as mood swings, weight gain, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The latter side effects are however still debated.
Lack of vitamin D and weight gain
Some data suggests that you may gain weight when you lack vitamin D. The reason: Your brain associates sunlight with an abundance of food and the lack thereof with lack of food. In short, your body and brain believe that there will be plenty of food in summer and that there will be a shortage of food in winter as it is quite old fashioned and does not know that we have plenty of food all year around. With this knowledge your body starts to store fat to make sure that you survive during the winter! This is why we gain weight as you don’t burn any fat during this period. Learn other reasons of weight gain here.
If you are like most of us, you most likely work indoors and use sun cream in the summer months. You don’t expose your body to the sunlight and you store fat all year around. To top it off there is never a time where you lack food thanks to modernized farming. So, the fat keeps on adding on in summer as in winter…
What about skin cancer?
Exposing your skin to direct sunlight can cause skin cancer. As Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin it is believed that the most effective way to absorb vitamin D is via exposing your “fattiest parts” of your bodies. Yes, your belly, buttocks and upper legs should be exposed directly to the sunlight for about 10 min each day per side. A total of max 20 min. Be aware that the timeframe may differ depending on the skin type as lighter skin burns faster and you may need to reduce the time you expose your skin in direct sunlight. The face, arms and legs should remain protected as there is hardly any fat under the skin and therefore burns faster.
Take home message
The lack of vitamin D in your body has side effects such as brittle bones and even weight gain and should therefore be minimized. As it is only available in small amounts in your food try to expose your ‘fatty body parts’ to the sun for a few minutes daily to get your healthy dose of vitamin D to feel and look your best.