The Truth About Vitamin D
A sunbather lies on an eroding shoreline near an apartment block on a northern Sydney beach, October 3, 2007. Credit:Reuters
Health trends vary with the swift celerity of those involving everything from fashion to celebrity gossip. What may be a diet fad one month, turns out to be bunk the next. Medical experts tell the public not to eat eggs one year, then pontificate on the vitality of the food the next. Drinking milk, eating red meat, staying carb-free or not: The list goes on ad infinitum as regards amorphous health "facts."
Lately, it seems the big questions are being asked about Vitamin D. Are people getting enough Vitamin D? What exactly does Vitamin D do? Why are so many discovering that they are Vitamin D-deficient "all of a sudden"?
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"Studies show that as many as three out of four Americans suffer from Vitamin D deficiency," reports Food Matters, which analyzed a recent article in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Such studies also showed, Food Matters continues, that this deficiency is "thought to be the most common medical condition in the world, affecting over one billion people."
Because the "vitamin" (a misnomer, actually, as doctors are now referring to D as more of a "hormone") assists the body in utilizing calcium garnered from one's diet, it is wholly necessary for the maintaining of strong bones. However, a host of other problems - in addition to simple bone-tissue-affecting rickets - have been monitored as regards lack of D.
Though symptoms are often mild, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to:
- Weight gain
- Bladder disorders
- Muscle/bone discomfort
- Asthma (in children)
- Mental difficulties
- Amplified risk of heart disease
A strictly vegetarian diet, along with certain other known disadvantages, could easily lead one to finding himself Vitamin D deficient. This is due to the fact that a majority of D-fortified foods are animal-based (eggs, cheese, liver, fish, etc.).
Lack of sunlight can also lead to a gross deficiency in D, as it is when the body is bathed in UV rays that it produces the vitamin. Wearing clothing that protects oneself from too much sun - headwear, robes, etc. - may not be as safe as once assumed by those worried about too much sun causing skin cancer.
Granted, too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. But, it's best to allow oneself five to thirty minutes of UV exposure, twice a week. As always, it is best to consult with a doctor, as such length of exposure will depend on the color of one's skin and such environmental differentials as elevation/climate, etc.
For those looking to take D supplements, it is important to remember that it is D3 that the body produces (D2, less soluble than 3, is what is added to milk; non-organic beef also lacks 3). Because liquid Vitamin D (supplements found in any health store) is absorbed more quickly into the body, it may be a better alternative to the pill form.
Again, it is essential to consult with a doctor or medical expert before taking on any such supplements. Vitamin D blood tests are quick and easy and a sure portend to figuring out whether or not one is getting enough in one's system.