Vitamin D is the popular supplement du jour, but why? Learn the basics on why it is such a hot topic and if it is something you should talk to your doctor about.
It seems like every new health report on the news discusses one more reason why you do not have enough vitamin D in your body. However, why this is important is not always as clear. There are plenty of reasons why you need adequate vitamin D, but they are not always clear in the news reports. Here we make it simple for you to find out why this vitamin is so important and how having enough of it can benefit many areas of your overall health.
Bone Health – Ricketts Risk
Credit: AmazonVitamin D is most well-known for its role in keeping your bones healthy and strong. A significant deficiency in the vitamin can lead to many concerns including osteoporosis and rickets. Osteoporosis is common in senior citizens for multiple reasons, but the lack of vitamin D is one important factor. Guidelines for recommended amounts of daily intake of vitamin D released in 2010 recommend 25% more for adults over the age of 70, in part to help protect against the threat of osteoporosis.
Rickets is a disease that was only common in undeveloped countries considered nearly eradicated in developed countries in recent decades. It is a disease caused by the lack of vitamin D, calcium, magnesium or phosphorus and leads to the weakness of bones and muscles. Most commonly affected are children suffering from malnutrition and vitamin D deficiency is usually the main cause. A typical image of a child with Ricketts shows bowed legs and a common symptom is easily broken bones, like in osteoporosis.
Studies referenced on the Harvard School of Public Health website show that the risk of broken bones does not decrease unless you are taking adequate vitamin D supplements of at least 800 IU per day. The daily recommended maximum is 4,000 IU.
A study called the Health Professional Follow-Up Study proved that men with vitamin D levels considered healthy were at a lower overall risk of heart attack than those with low levels. If you consider the fact that vitamin D plays a role in rickets as well, which leads to weakness of the muscles, then consider that the heart is just one large muscular structure, it makes sense that the low vitamin levels can be linked to heart attack. There is also information that shows a link between inadequate vitamin D levels and high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease.
Higher death rates of a specific type of cancer in less sunny locations led researchers to investigate if vitamin D levels could impact cancer risk. The Harvard School of Public Health website says that it led to dozens of different studies, which shed light on the fact that low levels of the vitamin do indeed lead to a greater risk of developing cancer, especially colorectal cancer. A larger study that will span multiple years will examine if taking supplements of vitamin D can decrease cancer risk, but results will not be available for years.
Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis Complications
After vitamin D deficiency was linked to cancer based on a suspicion generated by differences in geographic data, other diseases that were more common in areas with less direct sunlight came under scrutiny, too. Among those diseases that are more common in areas with less direct sunlight exposure, are multiple sclerosis and type one diabetes. There is still not significant data to link the low levels of the vitamin with both medical maladies, however first studies show that there is some promise to the theory.
Increased Risk for Common Illnesses
The correlation between vitamin D levels and sunlight exposure is proven, as the ultraviolet rays give our body what it needs to naturally make the vitamin. During the time of year when there is less sunlight, it would make sense that there is a lower overall level of vitamin D in the entire population unless they supplement. Considering this, then considering the majority of cold and flu viruses take hold and infect communities during the winter months could show that the lack of the vitamin leads to greater spread and susceptibility to these viruses.
It is always best to check with your doctor when seeking to add any sort of supplement to your diet. Once you have the approval of your physician, keep in mind while shopping for your supplement that there are different options for vitamin D on the market, so know what to look for. If you find two different options available, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3, make sure to choose vitamin D3 as it is more easily absorbed into your body systems than D2. Another name for D3 you may find on the label is cholecalciferol. Once you have determined if you need to supplement your diet and time outside with extra vitamin D, these tips can help you find the right product for you along with specifics from your physician.