Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our overall health, but many people worldwide, are not getting enough of it. Although vitamin D can be stored in our body fat until it is needed, the problem is that it is not so easy to get enough vitamin D into our body.
The main job of vitamin D is to keep the right amount of calcium and phosphorus in our blood. These are the 2 nutrients that work together to make our bones strong. Without enough calcium and phosphorus being absorbed in our body, our bones would become brittle and break easily.
Until recently, experts believed that the main role of vitamin D was to keep our bones healthy and prevent them from breaking-up. But new research has shown many other reasons why this vitamin is so important for our health.
The Reasons Why Vitamin D Is So Important
It helps to:
Prevent bone fractures
Prevent falls in older people and osteoporosis
Reduce the risk of cancer, especially colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer
Reduce the risk of diabetes, especially in young people and in those living in high altitude
Protect against heart disease, including high blood pressure and heart failure
Reduce risk of multiple sclerosis
Improved lung function.
If You Don't Get Enough Vitamin D
Bones can become weak and can break
Children can get "rickets," a disease that prevents their bones from growing properly, delays their growth, and causes problems with their immune system
Adults can develop "osteomalacia," a disease that weakens the bones and makes them hurt, and also causes fractures
Older adults can get osteoporosis, which does not cause pain, but makes the bones thin and easy to fracture
The best way to know if one is getting enough vitamin D is to have a specific blood test. Otherwise, one may not know that one is not getting enough vitamin D until symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency manifest.
What Are the Best Sources?
The best source for vitamin D is sunlight. Only a few foods supply vitamin D in significant amounts. The best source for this vitamin for humans is the Sun, not supplements. The problem is that too much exposure to the Sun can cause skin cancer, but too little Sun exposure is the reason that many people today don't get enough vitamin D either.
Because it's difficult to get all the vitamin D one needs from food, and since one does not want to be exposed to too much sunlight, most people need short-time sun exposures and daily vitamin D supplements. Spending a short time in the Sun each day, without sun block, may not be a bad idea, unless one has a special sensitivity to sun exposure.
If one is exposed to summer sunlight for about 10 to 15 minutes at least twice a day, the person is probably getting enough vitamin D. But when sunscreen is used, it prevents the skin from soaking up enough vitamin D.
Who Is at Risk for Vitamin Deficiency?
If one belongs to any of the following groups, he/ she may be at risk of vitamin D deficiency, in which case you should ask your doctor to for the vitamin D test:
People who don't get a lot of exposure to sunlight
People who use sunscreen often
Older people are at very high risk, in part because aging skin doesn't absorb sunlight as well as younger skin
People who are obese
People who have medical conditions that interfere with their body's ability to absorb fat, such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, or pancreatitis
People who have liver or kidney problems
People who take certain medicines, like anti-seizure drugs or steroids.