Vitamin D is an essential vitamin needed to maintain good health, yet many people aren’t aware of its importance. As more vitamin D facts are being discovered by researchers, this vitamin is being found to be imperative to our health in many different ways, from bone health, to the immune system, to cancer.
Vitamin D is an important component in maintaining normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. It promotes calcium absorption thereby helping to maintain strong bones. Studies have shown people deficient in vitamin D typically have bones that are thin and brittle. Maintaining proper amounts of vitamin D will help prevent rickets and osteoporosis.
This is why vitamin D was added to milk in the U.S. in the 30′s. By adding this vitamin to all milk sold, the U.S. was able to practically eliminate the childhood disease rickets long ago.
In a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Anthony Norman, an international expert on vitamin D, identifies vitamin D’s potential for contributions to the health of our immune systems, the secretion and regulation of insulin by the pancreas, the heart and blood pressure regulation, muscle strength and brain activity. Norman also lists 36 organ tissues in the body whose cells respond biologically
Unfortunately today, many people are deficient in vitamin D – up to 70% – 85% in some regions, and this deficiency is contributing to many of the chronic illnesses in western countries.
What are the sources of vitamin D?
- Fortified foods
- Exposure to Sunlight
- Vitamin D Supplementation
Milk is one of your best sources of Vitamin D. Drinking just one cup of fortified milk will give you half your daily allowance. Egg yolks and beef livers also provide a good source.
Vitamin D can also be produced in the skin. When exposed to UV rays, your skin is able to produce the vitamin. Inhabitants of northern climates can lack this exposure and have been found to be deficient in vitamin D as compared to the rest of the world. People with dark skin also have trouble creating vitamin D naturally though sunlight.
Be aware that using sunscreens of 8 or greater can block UV rays which in turn eliminates the best source of vitamin D. Just 10 to 15 minutes of full sun exposure may be sufficient. After this amount of time it is recommended you apply sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater. This only needs to be done a couple times a week. If you live in the northern US it is recommended you supplement your vitamin D with either food or vitamin supplements during the winter. Cloud cover will block half of the UV rays thus reducing your absorption.
Who Is Most At Risk For Vitamin D Deficiency?
Older Americans (greater than age 50) are thought to have a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency because the ability of skin to convert vitamin D to its active form decreases as we age. The kidneys, which help convert vitamin D to its active form, sometimes do not work as well when people age. Therefore, some older Americans may need to take vitamin D from a supplement.
It is also important for individuals with limited sun exposure to include good sources of vitamin D in their diets. Homebound individuals, people living in northern latitudes such as in New England and Alaska, women who cover their body for religious reasons, and individuals working in occupations that prevent exposure to sunlight are at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. If these individuals are unable to meet their daily dietary need for vitamin D, they may need a supplement of vitamin D.
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