Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Welcome to – Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

I decided to cover this topic for two reasons.

Reason 1- Vitamin D is essential for Calcium absorption.

Reason 2- Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem.

Reason 3- If you’re avoiding dairy in your diet, you may be deficient in Calcium.

I decided to cover this topic because vitamin D is essential for Calcium absorption, Calcium being another Micronutrient deficiency is a global he

Over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient

Vitamin D is an extremely important vitamin for your skin and beauty, bones and strength, and overall health and immunity.

When an estimated 1 billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency, it’s important to know what vitamin D is, how to know if you are lacking this vital vitamin, and what you can do about it.

WHAT IS VITAMIN D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can travel into your blood circulation and be stored in your body’s tissues.

It is the only vitamin that can be produced in the body on its own, making it more of a hormone than a vitamin.

It does so when your skin has direct sun exposure, and it can also be found in some food sources as well as Vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D, also described as “the Sun Vitamin” is a steroid with hormone like activity.

It regulates the functions of over 200 genes and is essential for growth and development. There are two forms of vitamin D.

Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).(2)

Vitamin D status depends on the production of vitamin D 3 in the skin under the influence of ultraviolet radiation from sun and vitamin D intake through diet or vitamin D supplements.

Usually 50 to 90% of vitamin D is produced by sunshine exposure of skin and the remainder comes from the diet.

Natural diet, most human consume, contain little vitamin D.

Traditionally the human vitamin D system begins in the skin, not in the mouth as Dietary sources of Vitamin D are limited.

However, important sources of vitamin D are egg yolk, fatty fish, fortified dairy products and beef liver.(3)

 

Foods fortified with vitamin D are the main sources of dietary vitamin D in some industrialized countries but such programs are practically nonexistent in most low- and middle-income countries.

In the absence of food fortification programs, a majority of the populations in the world solely depends on the sun for their vitamin D nutriture.

However, sunlight alone is not considered a reliable or adequate source as production of vitamin D in the skin minimizes in winters.

In the UK there is not enough ambient sunlight between the months of October- April for the skin to synthesise vitamin D.

Image result for british weather

Dark skin color exacerbates the problem of low endogenous vitamin D production.

Religious body-covering habits, staying indoors for the majority of daytime (particularly children, women, and the elderly), and lack of open spaces and direct access to sunlight in high human density habitations have resulted in the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, even in countries close to the equator where sunshine is abundant.

With this background, vitamin D can easily be classified as a “problem nutrient” with the potential of high risk of its deficiency in a large proportion of the human population.

Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and neuro-degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D deficiency may even contribute to the development of cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

 

Vitamin D3 is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system (possibly reducing one’s risk of cancers and autoimmune diseases), increasing neuromuscular function and improving mood, protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and potentially reducing pain.(5)

Exposure to sunshine each day helps human body to manufacture the required amount of vitamin D.

However, due to fear of developing skin cancer most people avoid the sun exposure.

To prevent vitamin D deficiency, one should spend 15 to 20 minutes daily in the sunshine with 40% of the skin surface exposed.

High concentration of melanin in the skin slows the production of vitamin D; similarly aging greatly reduces skin production of vitamin D.

Use of sunblock, common window glass in homes or cars and clothing, all effectively block UVB radiation – even in the summer.

Beach items and suntan lotion on table at the beach

People who work indoors, wear extensive clothing, regularly use sunblock, are dark skinned, obese, aged or consciously avoid the sun, are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Despite the abundance of sunshine in the Middle East allowing vitamin D synthesis all year round, the region registers some of the lowest levels of vitamin D and the highest rates of hypovitaminosis D worldwide.

This major public health problem affects individuals across all life stages, especially pregnant women, neonates, infants, children and the elderly.

Furthermore, while rickets is almost eradicated from developed countries, it is still reported in several Middle East countries.

These observations can be explained by limited sun exposure due to cultural practices, dark skin color, and very hot climate in several countries in the gulf area, along with prolonged breast feeding without vitamin D supplementation, limited outdoor activities, obesity, and lack of government regulation for vitamin D fortification of food, in several if not in all countries.(7)

Risk Groups (NICE, 2014)

  • Infants and Children under 5 years
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women, particularly teenagers and young women
  • People who have low or no exposure to sun, for example, those who cover their skin for cultural reasons, who are housebound or confined indoors for long periods
  • People of darker skin, for example, people of African, African-Caribbean or South Asian family origin

Suitable supplements should be available for people with particular dietary needs (for example, people who avoid nuts,  are vegan, or have a halal or kosher diet).

 

 

Graeme Syme
 

Registered Dietitian-Gastrointestinal Specialist Is this blog too long or short? Join our mailing list and let me know what topics you want covered!

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