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Vitamin D, a vital hormone


Vitamin D deficiency is being linked to increased mortality and covid-19 infection. But adequate vitamin D is important for the functioning of the whole body. Here are some good reasons to keep an eye on this vitamin, which is actually a hormone.

In recent months, vitamin D has come to the fore and we have learned more about its role as covid-19 infection and mortality have been linked to low vitamin D levels. Although direct causality between these factors is being investigated, the fact remains that Vitamin D is a major immunomodulator in respiratory diseases.

But covid-19 is not the only risk associated with low vitamin D. In fact, it is one of the mildest when considering the incidence of the diseases it is linked to - cancer or autoimmune diseases. In fact, it is one of the mildest when you consider the incidence of the diseases it is linked to - cancer or autoimmune diseases.

Our skin is a major organ that synthesises this vitamin, which contributes to the development of our cells, to maintaining our bone health and to preventing certain types of cancer. Experts point out that Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for mortality among healthy patients due to hypertension, diabetes, autoimmune diseases or cancer. and that it can accelerate renal and cardiovascular deterioration in people with chronic kidney disease.

Why is Vitamin D important?

Vitamin D keeps bones healthy

The Vitamin D enables the absorption of calcium in our body. since childhood. When it is lacking, our skeletal system may not form well or may deteriorate more easily. That is why it is important to consume enough calcium in the diet but also to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D to absorb it properly.

In adulthood sosteopenia - loss of bone density - and bone loss are very common. osteoporosis - bone weakness and brittleness - especially among women after menopause. Daily sunbathing, ensuring adequate amounts of vitamin D in the diet or taking supplements can help to maintain this level.

On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about the relationship between vitamin D and dental health This is particularly true for people who have to replace complete teeth using the dental implant technique. Adequate levels of this vitamin contribute to the integration between the alveolar bone and the implant, a process that is essential for the success of the treatment. 

Vitamin D and cancer prevention

However, it is not possible to generalise by associating adequate vitamin D levels with a reduced risk of cancer, observational studies on colon, prostate and ovarian cancer have been collected that claim that vitamin D may protect against cancer.. It is even concluded that vitamin D supplementation could reduce incidence and mortality at low cost. These claims, reported by the NIH (National Institutes for Health in the United States) have not yet been confirmed. So why is it believed that adequate levels of vitamin D protect us?

If there is no direct relationship, it is believed that Vitamin D deficiency may influence different processes that facilitate the onset of neoplasia.The most important of these are: homeostatic control of glucose, epigenetic instability or an increase in intracellular cancer. This multifactorial argumentation would serve to find correlations with increased aggressiveness of an initiated cancer and it would be more difficult to find a direct link with the origin of the cancer, in each case.

The hormonal function of vitamin D

It is neither a vitamin nor a single vitamin. The misnamed vitamin D is a hormone that has effects on all organs and systems of the body. As well as helping to maintain calcium levels, this hormone is also involved in the adequate insulin secretion from the pancreas.

Other endocrine functions of this hormone are related to the modulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism which enables the absorption of calcium in the intestine or the maintenance of bone homeostasis.

Frequent falls and pain

Muscle weakness and falls are among the symptoms of hypovitaminosis D. When the low level of this hormone is very severe, it can even lead to bone deformities and rickets in children.

Bone pain, cramps, muscle weakness are common symptoms. This myopathy which, in addition to weakness, is characterised by diffuse pain, is common mainly in the lower extremities.

Vitamin D also fulfils paracrine functions that contribute to cell maturation and differentiation. In relation to the immune system, adequate levels of the hormone modulate the body's defence system and prevent infections.

Where is vitamin D found?

We synthesise vitamin D in our skin, through contact with sunlight. Although the process is more complex in our bodies, exposure to the sun's rays is essential.

As we do not naturally produce this substance, we must ensure that we eat a balanced diet rich in vitamin D, such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, etc.), fresh or canned, the eggs, whole milk (being higher in fat, it contains higher levels of vitamin D) and plant-based foods such as mushrooms or wheat germ.

Since the 1980s, we can also find in supermarkets the following products foods fortified with vitamin D such as skimmed and semi-skimmed milk and cereals for breakfast, especially those aimed at children and women.

In addition, the doctor often prescribes vitamin D supplementation when levels are below adequate levels, as diet alone is sometimes not enough. These supplements should always be taken under medical prescription, as an excess of vitamin D in the body can also be fatal. These supplements should always be taken at mealtimes as this hormone is fat-soluble.

On the other hand, people over the age of 50 should closely monitor vitamin D levels as hormone production decreases from this age onwards and the body has to compensate in some way for this decrease in hormonal parameters.

Vitamin D and Covid-19

Since the first hospitalisations for covid-19, it has been observed that people with lower levels of this hormone had a higher risk of becoming seriously ill. Vitamin D acts on T-cells, which act as a defence against viruses and bacteria.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Biosalud has recommended the following prescribed food supplementsthat could improve our response to infections and, in particular, to covid-19. These recommendations have always been made as a complement to all the actions that we have to carry out on a daily basis to avoid contagion, especially the use of masks and the ventilation of spaces.

Mariano Bueno

Dr. Mariano Bueno and his team

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