Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. Hence, vitamin D is commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin”. Meanwhile, a small amount of Vitamin D also occurs naturally in few foods including some fatty fishes (salmon, tuna), fish liver oils, egg yolks, beef liver and mushrooms.
Vitamin D Deficiency in Malaysia
Despite staying in a tropical country receiving an average of 8 hours of intense sunlight daily, Malaysians still have a high prevalence of Vitamin D insufficiency.
Surveys showed :
8 out of 10 healthy Malaysian adolescents are not taking sufficient Vitamin D.(1)
74% of Malay, 68% of Indians and 38% of Chinese women aged 18-40 years old in Kuala Lumpur were reported to have vitamin D insufficiency.(2)
71.3% of Malay and 12.2% of Chinese postmenopausal women aged 50-65 years have vitamin D insufficiency.(3)
Vitamin D and Immune Health
Most of us probably know that vitamin D is vital for bones because it is required for calcium absorption, but that is just the tip of the iceberg! Did you know vitamin D has been linked to immune health? Let’s discover more about how Vitamin D can strengthen the immune system.
There are vitamin D receptors found on cells in the immune system. Vitamin D has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties which are crucial for the activation of immune system defenses. It works in the immune system by reducing levels of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, as well as increasing the number of antimicrobial proteins, which are naturally occurring antibiotics that destroy invading bacteria and viruses.
This combination of lowering inflammation and increasing antimicrobial defense can help an individual’s immune system fight infections more effectively. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections, immune-related disorders, tiredness and decreases lung functions.
In 2017, a large analysis of prospective clinical trials showed that taking vitamin D reduces the risk of developing a respiratory infection by approximately 42% in people with low baseline levels of Vitamin D below 25 ng/mL. The analysis also suggests that taking vitamin D daily or weekly was more effective than larger doses taken in single or monthly boluses. The most common daily dose used was vitamin D 300-4,000 IU.(4)
The recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for vitamin D for Malaysian aged 1 to 70 years is 600 IU per day and 800 IU a day for adults older than 70. (5) Although Vitamin D can be obtained easily from sunlight exposure but this can be limited by environmental and lifestyle factors. Meanwhile, Vitamin D from the diet may not be sufficient to meet the daily requirement of normal individuals. Taking health supplement products with an adequate amount of vitamin D might help in maintaining an optimal vitamin D level.
1. Al-Sadat N. Majid HA, Sim PY et al. Vitamin D deficiency in Malaysian adolescents aged 13
years: findings from the Malaysia Health and Adolescents Longitudinal Research Team study (My HeARTs). BMJ Open. 2016.
2.Musa Nurbazlin et al.Effects of sun exposure on 25(OH) vitamin D concentration in urban and rural women in
Malaysia. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2013;22 (3):391-399.
3.Rahman SA, Chee WS, Yassin Z et al. Vitamin D status among postmenopausal Malaysian women. Asia
Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004. 13: 255-60.
4.Martineau AR et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 2017
5.Recommended Nutrient Intakes Malaysia 2017.