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Health Benefits and Importance of Vitamin D

importance of vitamin d and health benefitsThere are two types of Vitamin D: Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) and Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3). Vitamin D3 is synthesized by plants whereas Vitamin D3 is synthesized by humans via our skin and exposure to the UVB rays from the sun. Often we can get enough Vitamin D however during winter months, cloudy days and use of sunscreen, many people do not get as much Vitamin D as they need and deficiencies arise.

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus. It helps with absorption of calcium which as we know, helps us maintain strong bones and increase bone density. Without enough Vitamin D, our bodies will not properly absorb these minerals and as a result, will become deficient in these areas as well.

Recent research also points in the direction that Vitamin D can help protect from other health conditions like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer and many autoimmune diseases.

Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency

If we do not get enough Vitamin D our bodies do not properly absorb minerals and nutrients that we need, no matter how many supplements we may consume. Some health conditions from lack of Vitamin D include, but are not limited to:
  • Rickets (skeletal deformaties in children) & Osteomalacia (weak muscles & bones in adults)
  • Hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid)
  • Hypoparathyroidism (low levels of hormone)
  • Cognitive issues
  • Kidney diseases
  • Respiratory concerns
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Muscle weakness & pain
  • Asthma

Who is at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency

Anyone who does not get enough sun exposure (UVB) is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. The elderly and obese population are at risk as are exclusively breast-fed babies (since Vitamin D is added to baby formula.) Other individuals who may be at risk are those who have fat malabsorption syndromes like cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn's or Colitis.

Other people at risk are those who have had or have: Bariatric surgery, osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, liver failure, taking anti-seizure medications, glucocorticoids, AIDS drugs, antifungal drugs, tuberculosis and sarcoidosis.

While many food are enriched with Vitamin we still don't get as much as we need from our foods. Fish is a great source of Vitamin D however unless you eat fish daily and consume 5 glasses of Vitamin D enriched milk daily, you would need to get your Vitamin D from other sources.

How Much Vitamin D to Take Daily

This greatly depends on how much Vitamin D you are already getting and whether or not you are already deficient. Speak with your health care provider if you think you are deficient before exceeding the recommended amount below. Recently these guidelines were changed as it was discovered more people were Vitamin D deficient.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set out new following Recommended Daily Allowances:
  • Ages 0-1 year: 400 to 1,000 IU daily
  • Ages 1-18: 600 to 1,000 IU daily
  • Adults 18+: 1,500 to 2,000 IU daily
  • Pregnant & Lactating Women under 18 years of age: 600 to 1,000 IU daily
  • Pregnant & Lactating Women 18+: 1,500 to 2,000 daily
Higher ranges have been prescribed when a deficiency is present. In these instances people who are deficient would increase their Vitamin D consumption for a short period of time to get their levels back up. Again, this is done under a doctor's supervision.

Vitamin D is important for our body and ensures proper absorption of other minerals and vitamins. Learn the health benefits of Vitamin D as well as the risks of Vitamin D deficiency.