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Why is Vitamin D important to our health?

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Aging, Kids and Parenting, General Nutrition, Mens Health, Musculoskeletal - Arthritis, Joint, Bone and Muscles, Pregnancy, Womens Health, Healthy Eating
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 Vitamin D - the sunshine vitamin, has gotten a lot of publicity in the recent years for several health-related reasons. Adequate levels of vitamin D in the body have been linked to weight loss, reduced risk of fractures in older adults, and decreased rates of cardiovascular disease.1, 2, 3 Vitamin D is different from other vitamins because our bodies can make most of what we need from the sun.  Some foods contain small levels of vitamin D, such as fish, eggs, mushrooms, cheese, beef and fortified milk. But, the skin can make vitamin D from cholesterol when it is directly exposed to 10-20 minutes of sunlight. 

Knowing your vitamin D level is important because a deficiency can lead to many adverse health effects. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and is vital to maintain bone health and prevent fractures. Vitamin D also helps prevent rickets, a deficiency that results in bone deformities in children. Vitamin D also plays a role in muscle movement and may help keep older adults more mobile as they age.It can help the immune system fight bacteria and viruses. There has been research linking too low of levels of vitamin D to certain cancers like thyroid, prostate, and breast cancer.  Research has shown that vitamin D may play a role in the prevention of diabetes and hypertension, although the exact mechanism has not been discovered. Vitamin D can also be related to difficulty losing weight. People who are obese tend to have lower levels of vitamin D, as vitamin D is fat soluble and gets trapped in the body’s fat cells.5

But, what is an adequate level of vitamin D? Experts believe that serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) should be ≥ 50 nMol/L and can be determined via a simple blood test.A 2007 study, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal, analyzed vitamin D status in three areas of Australia: southeast Queensland, Geelong region, and Tasmania. The results showed that study participants in Tasmania had the greatest prevalence of low vitamin D levels (67.3% of subjects), followed by those in Queensland (40.5% of subjects), and lastly 37.4% of participants in the Geelong region had level less than 50 nmol/L.7Researchers found that vitamin D status varied more with seasonal changes, rather than latitude.

Those at greatest risk for vitamin D deficiency are those with darker skin or who spend a lot of time indoors. Others who may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency are those who have illnesses that prevent proper absorption of nutrients and breastfed children who do not receive supplemental vitamin D. The elderly are at high risk due to time spent indoors and the fact that the skin no longer absorbs vitamin D as efficiently as we age.

Most adults are not able to get more than 5-10% of their vitamin D requirement from their diet and need some direct sun exposure on a daily basis. During the winter months, when sun exposure is low, it is recommended that people supplement with at least 600 IU of vitamin D, or 800 IU for those 70 or older.8For those with a deficiency identified via a blood test, a doctor may prescribe higher doses of the vitamin temporarily to quickly correct the deficiency. The upper limit of vitamin D is 10,000 IU.9  

 

 

If you are taking multiple supplements, be careful to check the total amount of vitamin D you are getting. In most commercial vitamins, vitamin D is found in either the D2 (ergocalciferol) form or D3 (cholecalciferol). Many experts believe that D2 is not well absorbed or utilized because it comes from plants and not an animal source. Vitamin D3 more closely matches the type vitamin D found in the body, therefore it is the preferred form for supplementation, so look for a vitamin D supplement with D3.10Do not worry about getting too much vitamin D from the sun, so get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

 


References 

1.     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19549021

2.     http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_126659.html

3.     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18377100

4.     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18727936

5.     http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/nutrition/

6.     http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/vitamin-d-deficiency/what-is-vitamin-d-deficiency/

7.     http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info:doi/10.1289/ehp.9937

8.     https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2012/196/11/vitamin-d-and-health-adults-australia-and-new-zealand-position-statement

9.     http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

10.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21177785

    

Why is Vitamin D important to our health?