The superstar of prevention
Our body derives it from exposure to the sun: it is therefore probable that, after more than two months of quarantine, in many people the concentration in the blood of vitamin D is below the recommended value of at least 30 ng / ml. Unhappy hypothesis, considering that it is considered one of the main allies of well-being. What are its main characteristics, and what are the signs of a shortage? “Vitamin D is a fundamental hormonal precursor for many biological functions”, explains Stefano Manera, specialist in Anesthesia and Resuscitation , expert in integrated medicine, nutrition and homeopathy.
«Apart from the summer, when you just have to expose yourself for 20 minutes in the sun, even with bare legs and arms, to allow our body to produce vitamin D, in the rest of the months of the year it is very difficult to have good levels. Unfortunately, it is not enough to do outdoor activities, to be exposed on sunny days and to eat fatty foods – such as salmon, some dairy products or egg yolk – or those to which vitamin D has been added. A deficiency can cause various pathologies, including a depletion of the immune system: in fact, frequently, patients who get sick more or develop more important symptoms have very low levels of this vitamin “, adds Manera, who during the Covid emergency – 19 was on the field at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo in the Therapy ward Intensive.
« Among the alarm bells of a deficiency there are inflammatory diseases and dysbiotic phenomena, or the alterations of the intestinal bacterial flora . I often find low levels of vitamin D in patients who complain of malaise and chronic fatigue, who do not feel fit even if they do not have specific symptoms, people who tell me “doctor I do not understand what is happening to me, I have lost energy, I sleep bad, I digest badly, I can't concentrate … “. Other spies may be dermatological problems such as dermatitis or excessively dry skin. ” Once the deficiency has been ascertained, the supplement is used which, Manera points out, “varies according to the initial conditions of the patient, must be administered daily until the optimal values are reached, between 60 ng / ml and the 80 ng / ml, with a desirable value around 100 ng / ml. To ensure them, it is appropriate to introduce for a healthy adult, from 3. 000 at 5. 000 IU per day ». The intake of maxi monthly doses is not recommended: “Our body has been” designed “to produce vitamin D gradually, day after day and not through maxi doses that could cause toxicity and alterations in calcium metabolism”.
As for any supplement, that of vitamin D must also be done under medical supervision: «It is a fat-soluble substance that remains in the adipose tissues and whose accumulation could give side effects such as hypercalcaemia i.e. high levels of calcium in the blood. To counteract this side effect, in adults it is advisable to combine the intake of vitamin K, which works in the metabolism of vitamin D “, he concludes.
THE INTELLIGENT VITAMIN
Vitamin D is the protagonist of important scientific research that is highlighting its formidable characteristics, as Antonio Moschetta, professor of internal medicine at the Aldo Moro University of Bari and AIRC researcher, says. Moschetta worked for 5 years in Texas with David J. Mangelsdorf, the biologist who discovered the vitamin D receptor: “It is known that the concentration of vitamin D in the blood depends on sun exposure, absorption, and what values around 20 ng / mL are an indication of its shortage. At the end of the years 90, Mangelsdorf revealed an important novelty: vitamin D is able to enter the cell, activate a switch sitting on the DNA (its receptor), thus allowing the ignition of target genes with specific activities. This discovery made it possible to understand fundamental mechanisms, first of all that the switch is not only present but is identical in many cells of our body, such as those of the intestine, bone, macrophage of inflammation. Perhaps the most interesting news, however, is that it is a highly intelligent mechanism, as it is capable of turning on specific genes for each tissue. In the colon, the switch turns on genes which in turn will act on a series of proteins useful to free us from toxic compounds, favoring the cleaning of the intestine. In the bone, it acts by helping recalcification; in the kidney, it has a role in producing a circulating hormone, FGF 23 , which plays an important role in organ failure “.
Among the virtues of this vitamin, there is also the anti-inflammatory one: “Vitamin D is able to intervene on monocyte macrophages, cells that normally circulate in our body. In the event of a tumor, these cells are attracted to the tumor tissue where they form the microenvironment (the environment in which the tumor develops, ed. ) that we are still studying as it can promote the growth of the tumor itself “. Important studies which, however, must not create misunderstandings, stresses Moschetta: «Science has no certainty that filling with vitamin D can protect against cancer. However, it is certain that maintaining optimal circulating concentrations of vitamin D is fundamental for promoting the physiological and constant activity of its receptor, thus activating virtuous mechanisms that help the body to get sick less or react better to aggressions “.
Among the many interesting effects of the vitamin D switch, there is also that on adipogenesis, or the formation of fat cells. Adipogenesis is a mechanism that nature has endowed us with to allow us to conserve energy, but which, if altered, can give rise to dysmetabolic, hormonal and lipidic pathologies. “Factors such as the accumulation of abdominal fat and hypertension favor inflammatory states. Today we know that vitamin D deficiency is often associated with dysmetabolic pictures characterized by important waistlines – above 82 cm in women and 88 in men – carbohydrate intolerance, higher fasting glucose. Laboratory experiments tell us that the vitamin D receptor is able to block the formation of fat cells and, therefore, to bring potential benefits with regard to the pathologies mentioned. Although surprising, these discoveries cannot be translated directly to humans, it would be wrong to spread messages such as “you take a lot of vitamin D so you don't have the stomach.” What is important, however, is to understand why certain people develop pathologies of which the deficiency of vitamin D can be a signal, to understand the reasons why at some point our organism is no longer in balance and leads to disease. Therefore, if we don't have enough vitamin D in circulation, perhaps the first, fundamental question to ask is: why? The answer often lies in our habits. And therefore rethinking our lifestyle in order to find the lost balance is the first solution to resort to “.