Vitamin D deficiency leads to many diseases
What is Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is necessary for calcium and phosphate metabolism, specifically increasing the absorption of calcium form the gut, resorption from the bone and reabsorption from the kidneys when blood calcium is low.
Sources of Vitamin D
There are only a few food sources of this essential vitamin:-
- Fish (salmon,tuna,sardines,mackerel)
- Cod liver oil
- Egg Yolk
- Fortfied foods (cereal, milk, butter, orange juice)
The main source is vitamin D hydroxylation stimulated by sunlight.
Currently there is much debate as to what limits to set the target intake of this vitamin, however it is estimated that recommended intakes are less than optimal giving rise to deficiency and therefore an increase in Vitamin D related diseases.
Who's at risk of deficiency
Basically everyone, it is predicted that around 1 billion people worldwide have a lack of vitamin D in their bodies! Those most at risk include :-
- Those in nursing homes
- Elderly in general
- Children and young adults
- Breastfed infants
- Those in areas with a limited sunlight
- In Europe where few foods are fortified with Vitamin D
- Individuals with dark skin
- The obese
Diseases related to deficiency
Surprisingly there are many diseases related to vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency.
Recently there has been a wealth of information collected showing the relationship between Vitamin D and incidence of cancer. The latest study has shown that women in Canada with breast cancer were more likely to have Vitamin D deficiency. In the past a study also showed that vitamin D deficiency increased incidence of some cancers by as much as 50%.
Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to be associated with multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetics, and rheumatoid arthritis amongst others.
Type 2 Diabetes
This form of diabetes frequently occurs in the obese. Obesity is a well known risk factor for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to had an adverse effect on glycemic control in diabetics. Poorer glycemic control in diabetics leads to unwanted complications.
Schizophrenia and depression
It is postulated that low viatmin D levels increase the risk of both these psychiatric conditions. Furthermore Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to increase the release of mood boosters from the brain stimulating a feel good mood.
- Bone diseases such as osteomalacia and rickets
Vitamin D supplements
Ways to reduce incidence of Vitamin D deficiency
Now that you know about the diseases that are caused by low levels of Vitamin D perhaps it is time to try and increase your levels of this Vitamin. There are a few things you can do :-
- Get some sun, at least 20 minutes on the arms and legs is enough to stiimulate Vitamin D synthesis. You do not need to wait until you have sunburn as levels of the Vitamin are maximised before the skin turns pink.
- Take some supplements. There are many different supplements on the market including cod liver oil.
- Increase your intake of Vitamin D containing foods. This is difficult due to the lack of available foods, but by combining with supplemens and sunlight exposure you should be able to increase your levels.
- Another tip is to lose weight so that the Vitamin will be not be stored and inactive in the adipose tissue.
It is important that you have your Vitamin D levels monitored if you are taking supplements as high levels of Vitamin D can also have detrimental effects on the body.