Health Spotlight: The Importance of Vitamin D
Some reports suggest nearly half the world’s population suffers from vitamin D deficiency, which is unsettling news given that a lack of this important vitamin has been associated with a host of serious conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis and even depression, not to mention brittle bones and the common cold.
A major source of the vitamin is exposure to the sun, which is why it earned the nickname “the sunshine vitamin.” It’s created in the skin, although “the amount of sunlight needed to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D varies, depending upon the person’s age, skin color, sun exposure and underlying medical problems. Due to the increased use of sunscreen, fewer people are getting the necessary sun exposure, making it a significant cause of vitamin D deficiency. One study found that sunscreen with an SPF of 15, when used properly, can reduce vitamin D formation by as much as 99 percent.
Just how much vitamin D do you need? Recommendations vary, so consult your doctor. The National Institutes of Health suggest 600 international units a day for those ages 1 to 70. It should be noted, though, that it’s possible to take too much vitamin D. Referring to a source suggesting 50,000 IU a day, Cannell remarks that this “dose will make some people toxic, causing high blood calcium and renal failure with the calcification of internal organs.
Vitamin D3 is the active version of vitamin D. It is derived from sheep’s wool, and it has become one of the most highly recommended supplements in recent years. Supplementing with Vitamin D3 can be very effective in reducing the effects of inadequate vitamin D in the body. Without enough of the “sunshine vitamin”, you become more prone to conditions such as rickets and osteomalacia, bone and muscle pain, enlarged joints, and easily fractured bones. Vitamin D3 supplements can help avoid these issues, as well as reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. It has also been suggested in research that Vitamin D3 can maintain blood sugar and blood pressure levels already within normal range, and may also support healthy immune system function. Vitamin D3 promotes the absorption of Calcium into the bones, helps prevent loss of bone mass, and helps alleviate and reduce the risk of bone disorders.