A Call for Vitamin D

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Why is vitamin D so important? What does vitamin D do in our bodies?

Vitamin D is necessary for good bone health. One of the main functions of vitamin D is to increase blood levels of calcium and phosphorus by increasing their absorption in the intestines. To do this, vitamin D can bring calcium from the bones to be held by the kidneys. The vitamin is vital in building and maintaining strong bones, aids in hormone function and so much more.

There are two forms of the vitamin most important to human health and vitality – D2, made by plants, and D3, made in our own skin when exposed to sunlight. Although food can be fortified with either, vitamin D3 is of main importance. If supplementing, be sure to choose its D3 form, not the synthetic and inferior D2 form.

What if I don’t get enough vitamin D?

When vitamin D is deficient, bones cannot mineralize, they are soft, skeletal deformities form and you are put at a higher risk for fractures. High vitamin D levels can prevent osteoporosis, especially during menopause, when more bone mass is being depleted than rebuilt.

Low vitamin D levels have also been connected to increased risk of autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children, chronic fatigue, depression, the common cold and flu, upper respiratory infections and even cancer. Even cancer? Yes, the active form of vitamin D acts as a regulator of cell growth and differentiation. Its deficiency is associated with the four most common cancers being breast, prostate, colon and skin cancers.

Vitamin D could help prevent and treat type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, Seasonal Affective Disorder and multiple sclerosis. Arthritis can develop faster with vitamin D deficiency, while PMS symptoms can be improved by adding vitamin D, calcium and magnesium as well.

Who is susceptible to deficiency?

Populations at risk include breast-fed infants, people with milk allergies, those who follow strict vegetarian diets, individuals on chronic steroid therapy, older adults, people with dark skin, people with limited sun exposure, people with fat malabsorption issues and people who are obese or have undergone gastric bypass surgery. Vitamin D malabsorption is common for those who have Chrohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease. Obese individuals are at risk, as their vitamin D may be stored in fat cells rather than utilized by the body. Other issues arise from an inability of the kidneys to convert vitamin D to its active form.

How can I meet my vitamin D requirements?

In the case of blood testing, adequate blood levels of vitamin D range from 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL, although optimal levels are 50 to 60 ng/mL. Any values less than 12 ng/mL indicates extreme deficiency. Anyone under the age of 70 is recommended to get at least 600 IU of vitamin D daily, while anyone over 70 should aim for 800 IU daily.

The best source of Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight/UV rays. Ten to 15 minutes a day of safe sun exposure can help, with at least 40% of skin exposed. However, people with dark skin would require significantly more sun exposure.

Are you getting enough Vitamin D? A daily sunshine break can help!

Sources
1. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#en33
2. http://www.webmd.com/diet/vitamin-d-deficiency
3. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind
4. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/11/01/Vitamin-D-is-a-Key-Player-in-Your-Overall-Health.aspx
5. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/02/23/vitamin-d-part-five.aspx

 

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June 2013
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