Vitamin D, How A Deficiency Could Be Affecting Your Health

Vitamin D capsulesNutrition Tips – Is a lack of vitamin D affecting your health?

Vitamin D is a collection of fat soluble steroids, the two dominant forms of which are ergocaliferol known as D2 and cholecalciferol known as D3. The difference between D2 and D3 is that D3 is the active form and is activated when the sun hits the skin. There is a multi-stage process which involves the liver and kidneys which convert D2 to D3.

The production of Vitamin D3 is dependent on getting enough sun exposure, also playing a part are latitude, natural pigments in the skin and the use of sun blocks and skin covering clothing. It is estimated that 50% to 90% of vitamin D is produced in the skin in response to the UVB radiation coming from sunlight with the remainder coming from diet.

Globally there is great concern about Vitamin D deficiency with the medical and scientific community reassessing the daily requirements for good health. The rising number of children with bone disease has also fuelled more research about how much Vitamin D is needed in childhood. There is now widespread recognition that all the cells in the body have Vitamin D receptors. Studies also show that at least 2,000 genes are either directly or indirectly regulated by the Vitamin.

Two recent studies found that very low levels of Vitamin D in older women were linked to a higher risk of global cognitive decline and that higher levels were linked to a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

There is some evidence that getting enough Vitamin D may lower the risk of getting certain cancers among them, colon, breast, pancreas, prostate and skin.

Low levels of Vitamin D have also been associated with a 50% higher risk of having a heart attack, and there may be a link with hypertension, peripheral vascular disease and congestive heart failure.

Vitamin D prevents the immune system from forming “auto reactive” cells which is when autoimmune disease can arise. It is probable that people with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), type 1diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease may have Vitamin D insufficiency.Vitamin D rich oily fish

Emerging evidence appears to show that individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome may have low levels of Vitamin D. Depression and low mood also appear to be linked to a deficiency.

Healthy Living Tips – How much Vitamin D should you take?

A study conducted in 2003 found that men taking 11,000IU a day for five months did not cause any toxicity and their serum calcium levels were not affected. There is limited research into safe upper tolerable amounts. Doctors sometimes can prescribe 50,000IU once weekly for a few weeks but these instances are rare and are often to treat specific disease or deficiency.  Although 50.000IU of Vitamin D are sold over the counter in health food shops, it is not recommended that this dose be taken except under a doctor’s supervision. A safe level for most otherwise healthy adults is between 1,000IU and 3,000IU a day.

The easiest way to get your daily dose though is to make sure you get outside in the sun and allow your skin to absorb the UVB rays for about 15 minutes without sun block. The half-life of Vitamin D in the liver is about 3 weeks so we need to constantly top it up either with supplements or by getting adequate sun exposure.

People most at risk of deficiency are the elderly, pregnant women, those with darker skins as the melanin blocks some of the UVB rays, people who are housebound and people who have fat mal absorption diseases. Only a few foods have appreciable amounts of Vitamin D and these are oily fish, eggs, butter, and liver so sunshine and or supplementation are essential.Sunshine and Vitamin D

Final thoughts on Vitamin D

Maybe the reason that having a light tan always looks healthy is because it is! Excessive scaremongering over skin cancer and the overuse of sun block may have something to do with the appalling rise in children with rickets and many other diseases that are caused by Vitamin D deficiency. So remember, everything in moderation but a little sunshine makes you feel good, look good and can be very good for your health.

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