What’s the D-eal with Vitamin D?

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vitamin d vitamin d deficiency fatty fish sunshine vitamin vitamin d calcium vitamin d toxicity

There has been almost as much chatter about vitamin D in recent months as there has been about the H1N1 virus.

It isn’t unusual for nutrients to become trendy as research reveals their importance only to then fizzle into the background. After all, we witnessed similar hype with omega-3, lycopene, folic acid and many other nutrients. But is vitamin D the real d-eal?

Vitamin D is naturally produced by the human body when exposed to direct sunlight.The incidence of certain diseases has increased since we have reduced our sun exposure. Industrialization and fears of UV exposure have forced us indoors or under a layer of sunscreen. Research will eventually confirm or refute whether or not this is a coincidence; in the meantime, according to a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 75% of Americans do not get enough Vitamin D.

Not actually a vitamin, D is a pro-hormone. It has no hormonal activity itself, but is converted to the active hormone 1,25-D when ultraviolet rays from the sun strike the skin.

For years it seemed that vitamin D’s most important function was promoting calcium absorption to prevent childhood rickets and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. Without sufficient amounts, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. The adequate intake for vitamin D was 200 IU to 400 IU but dosage recommendations have more than doubled over the past two years. Doses from 2,000 to 10,000 IU are being prescribed for certain conditions. Why the sudden panic? It turns out that there are vitamin D receptors almost everywhere in the human body. Besides bone building, the vitamin’s relationship to these conditions is currently under investigation:

  • Cancer – the role of sun exposure in the prevention and treatment of cancer has long been acknowledged around the world. Research is exploring vitamin D’s connection to breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Vitamin D hinders the growth of new blood vessels that feed tumors.

  • Inflammation – vitamin D has anti-inflammatory effects and appears to help fight gum disease, heart disease, osteoarthritis, Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

  • Insulin & Diabetes –vitamin D improves insulin sensitivity and may hinder Type II Diabetes.

  • Autism – vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy or childhood may be a contributing factor behind autism. This theory is currently being examined.

  • Depression/Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)studies show that large doses of vitamin D alleviate symptoms of depression better than light therapy alone.

  • Physical fitness - vitamin D improves balance, muscle strength, force, velocity and jump height.

  • Obesity – teenagers with low vitamin D levels are more likely to be obese, hypertensive, and to have symptoms of insulin resistance.

There are several forms of vitamin D (D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5), but the two major forms are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Together they are known as calciferol. Both forms are converted to active vitamin D by the body. However, studies have determined that vitamin D3 is about three times more potent than vitamin D2 in the conversion process.

Vitamin D3 vs. D2: It is widely accepted that vitamin D3 is the better form, but some physicians still prescribe vitamin D2 in the form of Drisdol or Calciferol. A prescription isn’t necessary. A vitamin D3 supplement will provide a better form and is less expensive.

Besides natural sunlight, food sources of vitamin D3 include cod liver oil, fatty fish (herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines), whole eggs, milk and fortified juices. The average diet provides only 100 IU/day.

Physicians have only recently begun testing for deficiency of this nutrient and results are showing that the large majority of us are severely deficient. A blood test can determine your vitamin D status.

Resources

The Vitamin D Council, http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/.


By none| September 30, 2009
Categories:  Eat

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