What People Should Know About Vitamin D Deficiency

What People Should Know About Vitamin D Deficiency

USA-With Winter on the way that means less sunlight and the associated risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency.  Named the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D sounds sort of adorable but it is actually a pretty intense nutrient that aids with the absoprtion of calcium and support of the musculoskeletal system. 

There are some studies that indicate that Vitamin D can also help with the immune system, mood regulation, blood pressure, and even fending off diabetes and certain cancers.

But before buying a bottle of Vitamin D supplements, consider the facts, starting with the sun. Vitamin D is produced in the body when UV light from the sun hits the skin and triggers vitamin D synthesis, said Dr. Stefani Kappel, a dermatologist. 

Dr. Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, director, center for human nutrition and chief of the division of clincial nutrition at UCLA says that if you wear sunblock, you are also shielding yourself from vitamin D. He says that sunscreen blocks out UV rays, so your cells are not activated to Vitamin D.

Sunscreen is highly recommended, even in the winter, and not just because the prospect of skin cancer is worse than that of a vitamin D deficiency, but also because the amount of UV rays you need to promote vitamin D is fairly small. 

Kappel said that we get enough UV light entering the skin on a daily basis from just walking around outside for five minutes a day. She says while most of us are pretty good about wearing sunscreen on our face the rest of our body is often without and getting more stimulation of vitamin D synthesis.

It is true that people who are living in regions with long, dark winters are more prone to developing vitamin D deficiencies, the sun doesn't guarantee the vitamin D needed.

Dr. Li who lives in Los Angeles was surprised when she found out that she had a fairly severe vitamin D deficieny. Kay Wilson, who is also from Los Angeles said that she was diagnosed with vampire low vitamin D deficiency earlier this year. Both Li and Wilson wear sunscreen, but their deficiencies could point to another scientific fact: not everybody processes sun in the same way.

Places with less sunlight have an increased association of vitamin D deficiency, but someone can be out in the sun and still have a deficiency, it just depends on the individual, said Dr. Brian Feldman, endocrinologist at Stanford Health Care. For some people sunlught may not be enough. He adds that nowadays people spend less time in the sun than they did back when they were hunting and gathering, and so rain or shine, one optimal way to get vitamin D is from your diet.

Foods that are rich in Vitamin D are fortified milk, mushrooms, spinach. Even with these foods it is hard to know if you are getting enough.

It is difficult to know if you even have a deficiency, as generally subpar amounts of vitamin D don't have clear symptoms. They might include low mood, weakened immunity, and fatigue. It is more about the potentially debilitating conditions to which a deficiency can contribute.

The health issues that are definite are related to calcium, as without sufficient vitamin D the body cannot absorb calcium, says Dr. Li. Osteoporosis is one of the major related outcomes of a serious vitam D deficiency. Depressed moods and increased allergies are also possible results, but since other factors can contribute to these, they're not as clearly defined.

The medical community is still learning just how impactful a vitamin D deficiency can be, and what it can lead to, but evidence is mounting. 

Feldman said that some of the strongest data comes out of the oncology world and it suggests that a deficiency can be linked to breast and colon cancer. Some studies show that people with a deficiency may be at risk not only for developing these types of cancer, but they may also have poorer prognosis with them.

Studies also say that vitamin D deficiencies possibly enhance the risk of cardiovascular disease, inhibting pancreatic function, and increasing risk of hyperparathyroidism and neurological and psychiatric disorders, with ton of other research in the works.

The only way to be certain that you have a vitamin D deficiency is through a blood test. Often the test is included in a basic panel you'd get during an annual physical, and is relatively cheap said Feldman.

Vitamin D is not a vitamin but it is actually a steroid hormone, so it has a lot of different functions in the body. It is an important distinction, especially when people are taking vitamin D supplements. Feldmen says he doesn't object to vitamin D supplements, but he thinks that people should be cautious.

Feldman recommends that if patients do discover a deficiency from a blood test, they get guidance from their physician about exactly how much of a supplement to take. If they have a severe deficiency, they may need to start off with an industrial strength and then adjust accordingly upon follow up blood tests.

Dr. Li recommends that the general population take a vitamin D supplement of 1000 IUs a day every day, all year round, adding that the odds that you're getting too much vitamin D are beyond slim. Vitamin D has a very low if ever associated toxicity and she recommends taking it if you are not eating a lot of vitamin D-rich foods.

Any supplement can be overdone so it is best to start with a low dose but getting a blood test is the best way to find out if someone has a deficiency.






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