Vitamin D is one of the essential vitamins that our bodies absolutely need. Most people know that vitamin D is important for the health of your bones. You may have also seen it popping up more often in the media as new research determines that vitamin D has even greater benefits than doctors previously believed.
How Vitamin D Works
Vitamin D is essential for optimum health and growth. Vitamin D is absolutely necessary for the growth and development of bones and teeth, since it is required for the proper absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus in the body--both also essential to the health of the skeleton. Without adequate levels of vitamin D in childhood, bone deformities can develop--a condition known as rickets. In adults, lack of adequate vitamin D can reduce bone density, leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of bone fracture.
Potential Benefits of Vitamin D
Since there are vitamin D receptors on many cells in the body, scientists are investigating vitamin D’s importance for a variety of health conditions. The latest research suggests that vitamin D may have a protective role against multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions. In addition, higher intake of vitamin D has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in women.
Prevention of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is actually still a problem in many parts of the world, including Western countries like the United States. With the newest research showing us that vitamin D is important for much more than the health of bones and teeth, it is important to ensure you obtain adequate vitamin D in your diet, from the sun or from supplements. Take 1,000 IU of vitamin D (in the cholecalciferol form) daily from a dietary supplement to make certain you are getting enough vitamin D for optimal health. Make sure that your children are also taking 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
Who is At Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?
There are some individuals who may be at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. Since vitamin D’s main food sources are animal products, strict vegans should ensure adequate intake of vitamin D through supplementation--although most milk and cereals are fortified with vitamin D in North America. Those living with chronic inflammation or disorders of the intestinal tract that affect nutrient absorption are also at risk of deficiency, as are elderly populations who eat less, absorb less nutrients from their diet and avoid sun exposure. Older individuals also produce less vitamin D in their skin than young people.
Vitamin D Deficiency & Vitamin D Overdose
Vitamin D is converted into its active form in the body by the liver and kidneys. Those with diseases of these organs, such as liver cirrhosis, hepatitis or kidney stones, may have difficulty metabolizing vitamin D into its active form and may become deficient in this vital nutrient. In turn, excess consumption of vitamin D can increase your risk of kidney stones and hypercalcemia (excess calcium in the blood). Ask your doctor to monitor your vitamin D status if you are living with any chronic liver or kidney disorder.