Vitamin D: Are You Getting Enough?

by on December 16th, 2010
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During the summer months, the sun is shining, warming the earth. Plants are waking from their slumber and animals are being born. Living things that can survive without some kind of sunshine are rare.

There are mixed reports when it comes to going out in the sun. While some reports tell us to stay out of the sun, or if you have to go outside, wear long sleeves and slather on the sunscreen. I don’t know about you, but when it is hot and humid, the last things I want to wear are long sleeved shirts and pants. I guess I tend to follow the advice of others who tell us that sunshine is beneficial to our bodies because it is a natural source of vitamin D. The human body needs vitamin D to function properly.

Benefits of Vitamin D

According to the Mayo clinic, vitamin D may help prevent high blood pressure, cancer and several autoimmune diseases. People, deficient in this vitamin, are prone to rickets, and skeletal deformities, osteomalacia (muscular weakness).

Vitamin D allows calcium ions to cross the intestinal wall and it regulates several genetic functions that help in reducing cell proliferation or dangerous cell growth. Vitamin D promotes cell differentiation, (transformation of different cell types.) It prevents cancerous transformation and modulation of cell death, apoptosis. This vitamin helps prevent and treat a variety of cancers such as breast, colon, prostate, lung and lymphoma.

Vitamin D helps maintain serum calcium and phosphate levels and prevents soft bone diseases. This means that it helps your bones to grow strong and aids in bone remodeling. It also helps promote normal mineral growth in the bone.

If you take calcium supplements, it is important that it either has vitamin D already added or you take D in supplement form. These two vitamins when taken together help prevent spastic contraction of muscles, known as tetany. As you grow older, your bones are subject to osteoporosis. I would rather prevent this from happening to me by taking vitamins, then having to take prescription vitamins that can cause other health problems.

Vitamin D deficiency is also being linked to Type 2 diabetes. According to an article in US News Health, a study was conducted by the researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. They reviewed medical charts of 124 cases of people with type 2 diabetes. Their discovery was that 90 percent of those patients among the ages of 36 to 89 were deficient or had insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Sources of Vitamin D

Sunlight provides this vitamin. The UVB rays synthesize vitamin D in people’s skin. The use of sunscreen, sun-block, long sleeves and pants also prevents the synthesize process. But more people are staying indoors instead of going outside to soak up the benefits that the sun provides. This is a big problem for people who live where the weather is cold. I admit that I rarely go outside during the winter or when the weather is cold. I’d rather stay warm in my house, then go outside and freeze.

Some the foods that supply vitamin D are salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, egg yolks and beef liver. Beverages, like milk and some juices, have vitamin D added to the list of ingredients.

How Much do You Need

The amount of vitamin D varies from person to person. Some of it depends on the age of a person. Most health professionals agree that it is safe to take between 200 IU and 1200 IU of vitamin D every day. But according to an article on US news Health website, “D. Michael Holick, a researcher at Boston, says that most adults probably need to take about 2,000 IUs a day. Kids probably need about 1,000 IUs. Although vitamin D can be toxic at high doses, the latest research suggests that kids and adults can take 5,000 IUs or more a day in supplement without any ill affects.”

The one thing all health care professionals advise and agree on is to avoid getting sunburned. This does damage to the skin.

Tests for Vitamin D Levels

There is a risk of taking too much D, but the human body will warn you. The symptoms of having too much include nausea, heart rhythm abnormalities and kidney stones. A doctor can test your levels of this vitamin by using a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test to find out whether you are lacking. A sample of blood is drawn from the inside portion of the elbow or the back of the hand. According to Medicine plus, normal range is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)

Test numbers below the normal level can be due to a number of reasons. Some of these reasons include lack of sunshine, poor diet, liver and kidney disease. Certain medications can also deplete the vitamin D in some people.

When you take calcium tablets, remember to take vitamin D and magnesium. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium. These three nutrients are needed together to strengthen your bones and teeth. For middle-aged to older people, the minimum recommended intake of calcium is 1200 ng/mL every day.

Sources:

MedlinePlus: 25-hydroxy Vitamin D Test
Mayo Clinic: Vitamin D
US News: How Much Vitamin D Should You be Taking
US News: Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Diabetes Metabolic-Syndrome-in-Studies
Mayo Clinic: What is Vitamin D Toxicity and Should I Worry About It Since I take Supplements


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