Low Levels of Vitamin D Increases Health Risks

Experts suspect that low levels of vitamin D raise your risk of getting osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Find out how to get enough of this important vitamin.

| February/March 2008

  • vitamin D
    Our chief source of vitamin D is sunshine.
    Photo by Veer.com/Digital Vision Photography
  • vitamin D supplements
    “A lot of ‘fibromyalgia’ is probably vitamin D deficiency.” — Bruce W. Hollis, M.D., Medical University of South Carolina
    Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • vitamin D importance
    Taking a 15 minute walk outside around lunchtime may help you get your daily dose of vitamin D during summer months, though for most people a supplement is a more reliable source of vitamin D, says Walter Willett, M.D., of Harvard Medical School.
    Photo by Veer.com/Stockbyte Photography
  • sunscreen
    SPF 8 sunblock reduces the skin’s vitamin D production by 95 percent.
    Photo by Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • vitamin D needs
    Shiitake mushrooms dried (gills up) in the sun have a whopping 46,000 IU of vitamin D per 100 grams!
    Photo by Photodisc, Inc./C Squared Studios

  • vitamin D
  • vitamin D supplements
  • vitamin D importance
  • sunscreen
  • vitamin D needs

(Note: See New Dietary Guidlines For Vitamin D for updated recommended daily intakes as of November 2010.) 

What do the following conditions have in common: osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer? Give up? Experts suspect that low levels of vitamin D raise your risk of getting these diseases. Unfortunately, most of us probably are vitamin D deficient.

About all I was taught in medical school is that vitamin D keeps bones strong. Recently however, this area of study has exploded as scientists uncover the vitamin’s far-reaching effects. Because it increases calcium levels, vitamin D indirectly fortifies bones and teeth. It also regulates cells all over the body, which explains vitamin D’s disparate roles, such as influencing insulin production and immune function, as well as helping prevent inflammation and cancer.

The scary thing is that vitamin D deficiency appears to be quite common. A recent British study found that 87 percent of volunteers had low blood levels of the vitamin in winter and spring, and 61 percent had low levels in summer and fall. Why the seasonal variation? Our chief source of vitamin D is sunshine.

Why We’re D-ficient

In response to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight, our skin transforms a derivative of cholesterol normally found in the skin into vitamin D3 (cholecaliferol). The liver, kidneys and other tissues further activate this molecule. Given that the skin is a veritable vitamin D factory, why is deficiency so rampant? History — ancient and recent — holds the answers.

Humans evolved near the equator and spent days outdoors, allowing the skin to generate ample amounts of this vitamin. About 50,000 years ago, some of our ancestors migrated toward the poles, where winter sunlight isn’t intense enough for vitamin D production. However, their diet of vitamin D-rich fish compensated for the deficit.

11/21/2014 9:20:43 AM

there is no substitute for sunlight. There are spots you can get a free bottle of high quality Vitamin D like www.Teamvitaminangels.com however you need both sunlight and vitamin d supplements. I take a live source, liquid, vitamin d3 supplement. That and some foods containing d like fish and salmon are a nice combination. Vitamin D is extremely important.

7/15/2013 5:04:21 PM

Vitamine D is really a hormone. But the reason I react is that I see these people happily walking in the sun. Covered from top to bottom. Only their faces and hands are exposed to the sunlight. Vitamine D? Well, no.

2/17/2012 11:02:35 PM

Vit D Deficiency is the new fad diagnosis making all the headlines. The studies are almost exclusively "correlation studies." Correlation does not prove causality.... Vit D isn't really a vitamin because we make it ourselves in response to exposure to sunlight. Sick people tend to stay inside more than healthy people (do we need a million dollar reasearch grant to prove that?) so, not unexpectedly, they tend to have lower Vit D levels.... There's been no studies (yet) that show any disease gets better when extra vit D is taken to normalize levels.



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