Vitamin D and You
By Patty Liston
There has been quite a bit of discussion lately with regard to Vitamin D and the over-all deficiency of this vitamin in our bodies. It is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the US adult population is vitamin D deficient. Sufficient vitamin D is an essential requirement for healthy bones, strong muscles and fall and fracture prevention. This is especially important for the elderly who may be prone to falling and breaking hips and arms.
So what exactly does Vitamin D do? According to research on osteoporosis, this vitamin...
Assists in calcium absorption
Ensures correct renewal and mineralization of bone
Has a direct stimulatory effect on muscle tissue and thereby reduces the risk of falling
Improves strength and function, increases bone mineral density, and reduces the risk of falls and fractures by about 20%, including fracture of the hip
Dr. Marcelle Peck of the Woman to Woman Clinic in Yarmouth, Maine, stated that a lack of this vitamin also contributed to other health concerns such as depression, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and immune function.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight and is made in our skin from our exposure to it. This seems simple enough, however we are more and more a sedentary people, with jobs that keep us indoors most days of the week. The ability of our skin to produce vitamin D declines with age which may account for higher fractures among the elderly.
Other factors inhibiting this vitamin being absorbed into our skin are the sun-screens we use to protect our skin, cloud cover, air pollution, and altitude. To get just 800 IU of vitamin D will depend on our skin type and the season. During mid-day, for instance, with our hands and face exposed, we would need to be in the sun for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the summer time and up to 20 hours in the winter!
Given this scenario, someone with a vitamin D deficiency may experience muscle pain, fractures, low energy, depression, mood swings, and problems sleeping. While this may describe many of us from time to time, a chronic problem should be attended to by your doctor.
Foods high in vitamin D are somewhat limited, but include fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Unfortunately, we would have to eat two servings of fatty fish a day to reach the recommended intake of 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D per day for fracture reduction. Some other foods are milk, egg yolks, cheeses, fortified cereals, broccoli and avocado.
PEOPLE AT HIGHER RISK OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Seniors in general (especially those living in nursing homes or institutionalized care)
Individuals living in high latitudes with minimal sunshine exposure
Individuals who are obese
Individuals who have a disease that reduces vitamin D uptake from the intestine (i.e. inflammatory bowel disease)
Individuals who have a darker skin tone
Individuals who for medical or cultural reasons cannot expose their skin to the sun