Low levels of vitamin D may be associated with numerous health conditions. Adequate levels of serum vitamin D can be achieved through exposure to the UVB rays of sunlight. However, with the potential increased risk of skin cancer and constant use of sunblock and sunscreen, many people are not receiving the recommended daily intake of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient created in the body through photosynthesis of cholesterol in the skin during exposure to the UVB rays of sunlight. It is then metabolized by the liver and converted in the kidneys to an active, bioavailable vitamin D hormone. Vitamin D is also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk and some orange juice products. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adults is 1,000 IU/day.
In 2005, the Boston University School of Medicine Section of Endocrinology stated that vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in the United States. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center report on vitamin D, deficiency can result in an increased risk for rickets, osteoporosis and other bone disorders, arthritis, abnormalities of the parathyroid hormones including hypoparathyroidism, high blood pressure, psoriasis, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, seasonal affective disorder, diabetes, tuberculosis, atherosclerosis and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D is a thyroid hormone that helps the body regulate calcium and phosphorous. It promotes absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the intestines and is required for normal formation and mineralization of bone. The body cannot utilize calcium without vitamin D. According to the study, “Vitamin D in preventive medicine: are we ignoring the evidence?”, calcitrol, a metabolite of vitamin D, is required by more than 30 different tissues in the body.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain, joint pain, muscle fatigue, pain and weakness. High blood pressure, seasonal affective disorder and psoriasis may also be indications of vitamin D deficiency. If you experience these symptoms frequently, monitor your intake of vitamin D. If you are not receiving the recommended daily allowance of 1,000 IU/day, ask your doctor about having a simple blood test done to check your serum vitamin D level. Although the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are also symptoms of other medical conditions, there appears to be a correlation between inadequate vitamin D and numerous long-term health conditions. A simple blood test can rule out vitamin D deficiency or show that increasing vitamin D intake may relieve your bone, joint and/or muscle pain, as well as muscle fatigue and weakness.
Adequate exposure to sunlight on face and arms without sunblock or sunscreen can supply the body with the required amount of 1,000 IU/day of vitamin D. The body creates the required amount of vitamin D with 15 minutes of sun exposure to face and arms per week for light-skinned people, and 3 hours of sun exposure to face and arms per week for darker-skinned people. Foods that naturally contain vitamin D include sardines, cod liver oil, eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. Another source of vitamin D includes fortified products such as milk and cereal, as well as some brands of orange juice.