Vitamin D is essential for the normal functioning of our body. It is soluble in fat and our body is capable of making this vitamin with the help of sunlight. Scientists have known for some time about Vitamin D’s role in helping the body absorb calcium, maintaining bone density, and preventing osteoporosis. New research suggests it may also help protect against many chronic illnesses.
It is estimated that as many as 70% of American adults have low blood levels of Vitamin D. Since it is not abundant in our usual food choices we get most of the vitamin from sun exposure and multivitamins. The problem is that the sun is not a reliable source for everyone.
Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that is also a hormone. After Vitamin D is made by the skin or eaten, the kidney and liver help to convert it into an active hormone form. As a hormone, it controls calcium absorption to help the body build strong bones and teeth, and it helps maintain muscle strength. When you are deficient in calcium and Vitamin D, your bones break down to supply calcium to the rest of your body. But being deficient in Vitamin D can take a toll on more than just your skeleton.
Common Causes of Low Vitamin D Levels?
Lack of Exposure to Sunlight
The layer under the skin produces Vitamin D using sunlight. People of certain geographical locations like those in the northern hemisphere have living conditions such that their exposure to sunlight is minimal, causing increased deficiency. In addition, elderly people are frequently deficient due to their limited amount of exposure to sunlight.
- Deficiency of Vitamin D in Diet
There are very few food substances that contain naturally occurring Vitamin D. Some of the food items that provide Vitamin D are beef liver, fleshy part of the fish, egg yolk, fish oils and cheese. Therefore, vegetarians are more prone to low Vitamin D levels.
- Physical Reasons
Physical conditions like color of the skin or quantity of body fat are also responsible for low Vitamin D levels. Those with darker skin can have have lower levels of Vitamin D levels in the body. Obesity is another factor that causes low levels of Vitamin D. The reason behind this is that the vitamin becomes unusable due to its storage in excessive body fat.
The current recommended intake of Vitamin D is 200 IUs for those up to age 50; 400 IUs for people 51-70; and 600 IUs for those older than 70. Requirements increase with age because older skin produces less Vitamin D.
But these recommendations date back to 1997. Additional studies have been published since that time documenting the effectiveness of higher levels of Vitamin D. Evidence is mounting that we may need even more — especially older, dark-skinned, or housebound people.
People with low Vitamin D levels are often advised by the physicians to spend more time under the sun. In some cases, a Vitamin D supplement is recommended. Along with Vitamin D enriched food, a healthy diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables is also recommended to increase the levels of Vitamin D.