Read the news lately? If you have, odds are you’ve run across a story about the importance of vitamin D and its wonderful health benefits. Recent reports show that populations around the world are suffering from vitamin D deficiency. In the U.S., only one third of us are getting enough vitamin D to promote optimal health and prevent potentially severe bone-fracture rates.
There is also evidence suggesting that vitamin D deficiency increases during the winter months in North America. Why would a colder season have anything to do with whether or not you are getting your daily requirement, you may ask? Because the very best source of Vitamin D is our lovely star, the Sun. Our bodies use the sunlight to make Vitamin D. And with the days being shorter and colder, it's very possible you are not soaking up enough rays.
Vitamin D is frequently called the “sunshine vitamin." It's necessary for normal bone mineralization and growth, maintenance of muscle strength and coordination, cardiovascular health, and robust and balanced immune function. During Winter, it's very possible you're not getting your daily dose. But even when the sun is shining, how often do you actually see it? If you’re like most people, not often—especially if you work in an office or never leave the house without covering yourself in sunscreen.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it can be toxic in very large doses, but deficiencies have become relatively common. In fact, in the most recent revision of the Dietary Reference Intakes, the recommended dietary intake for certain age groups was increased as much as 50 percent.
How Vitamin D Helps
Calcium is the major structural element of bones and teeth. Your body needs several nutrients in order for calcium to be absorbed and used properly. Two of these nutrients are vitamin D and vitamin K. Vitamin D increases absorption of calcium from the small intestine so the body receives maximum benefit, while vitamin K helps make sure calcium builds up in the bones and not in soft tissues. Adequete calcium and vitamin D throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Vitamin D also promotes a healthy, balanced immune system through its key role in regulation and differentiation of immune system cells, and it supports cardiovascular health and normal functioning of the nervous system.
If you do opt to use a supplement, it's important to make sure that the brand you choose is high-quality. The one I use is made with cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), which research suggests is better than competing forms at raising levels of vitamin D in the blood.
Cholecalciferol can be acquired through diet and exposure to sunlight. Light-induced synthesis occurs in the skin when ultraviolet light reacts with a form of cholesterol, converting it to cholecalciferol. This molecule is then altered by the liver and kidneys to form the physiologically active vitamin D. Several forms have vitamin D or potential vitamin D activity. The most important forms are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The latter is the form normally found in humans and should also be the form used in your Vitamin D supplement.
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