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The D vitamin is the only vitamin that isn’t obtained from foods that are consumed. Instead, the D vitamin is actually obtained by sun light on the skin. There was lots of media coverage concerning the dangers of getting too much sun, however, it’s important that the skin is exposed to sunlight to obtain the beneficial daily allowance of the D vitamin. In reality, the amount of time that an individual has to spend in the sun to receive an ample dose of the D vitamin is extremely small and just a few minutes a day will be enough and not have any adverse effects from the amount of ultra-violet light received.
The most important function of the D vitamin is to help control how much calcium is absorbed from food. The majority of the calcium is used to build strong teeth and bones, however, it is also needed to send messages along the nerves and to help muscles, such as the heart muscle, to contract. It’s the D vitamin that ensures that there is always enough calcium in the blood to carry out these tasks. Other functions that require the D vitamin relate to the immune system and it’s believed that it is also a contributing factor in reducing the chance of contracting cancer and, in particular, colon cancer.
The variant of the D vitamin that’s formed below the skin is named vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol. This D vitamin is created when the ultraviolet in the sunlight reacts with a kind of cholesterol that’s found under the skin naturally. The D3 is transformed into a more active type of the d vitamin in the liver and is then diverted to where it’s needed the most. Some of the D vitamin stays in the liver and kidneys to assist reabsorb the calcium from the blood. The rest of the D vitamin is dispersed to the bones to help them retain their calcium and the intestines to help absorption of calcium from food.
Even though nearly all of the D vitamin is formed by the exposure of the skin to sunlight there are some foods that do contain some of the vitamin naturally. This type of the D vitamin is named vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol. This is used in the same way as the other D vitamins and is the sort used to create the majority of D vitamin supplements.
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