Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin, a group of fat-soluble prohormones, which encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. People who are exposed to normal quantities of sunlight do not need vitamin D supplements because sunlight promotes sufficient vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
Five forms of vitamin D have been discovered, vitamin D1, D2, D3, D4, D5. The two forms that seem to matter to humans the most are vitamins D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol).
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that Vitamin D levels in the body at the start of a low-calorie diet predict weight loss success, suggesting a possible role for vitamin D in weight loss.
High blood levels of vitamin D were found to protect even healthy people at a genetic level. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found that higher vitamin D levels in healthy individuals have a significant impact on the genes that are involved in several biologic pathways associated with illnesses, including cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases.
Data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), USA found that 9% (7.6 million) of children across the USA were vitamin D deficient (defined as less than 15 ng/mL of blood), while another 61 percent, or 50.8 million, were vitamin D insufficient (15 to 29 ng/mL) (reference "We expected the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency would be high, but the magnitude of the problem nationwide was shocking," says lead author Juhi Kumar, M.D., M.P.H., a fellow in pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Vitamin D for humans is obtained from sun exposure, food and supplements. It is biologically inert and has to undergo two hydroxylation reactions to become active in the body. The active form of vitamin D in the body is called Calcitriol (1,25-Dihydroxycholecalciferol).
Calcitriol promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food in the gut and reabsorption of calcium in the kidneys - this increases the flow of calcium in the bloodstream. This is essential for the normal mineralization of bone and preventing hypocalcemic tetany. Hypocalcemic tetany is a low calcium condition in which the patient has overactive neurological reflexes, spasms of the hands and feet, cramps and spasms of the voice box (larynx). Calcitriol also plays a key role in the maintenance of many organ systems.