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Sunday, September 20, 2009

About Vitamin D…

Vitamin D deficiency in the US is now widespread, and appears in headlines and news media with increasing frequency. But what’s the fuss all about?

Vitamin D, also referred to as “the sunshine vitamin,” is not even a true vitamin, because the body can actually synthesize it under appropriate conditions. Vitamin D is synthesized in the deeper sections of the outer layer of the skin. It does so from cholesterol derivatives present in the skin in the presence of sufficient sunlight (UBV radiation).

It's a true epidemic. Depending on the study, vitamin D deficiency in the US is said to be present in 26-58% of the population. It is more prevalent in the elderly, in dark-skinned people, and in those with some chronic diseases. The further north you are from the equator, the more likely you are to be vitamin D deficient.

The major contributors to the recent increase in vitamin D deficiency are the general decrease in exposure to sunlight (skin cancer awareness), the use of sun screens, and the use of cholesterol lowering medications which reduce the availability of cholesterol compounds in the epidermis.

Vitamin D deficiency is believed to be associated with a wide variety of disorders, with its full role in some conditions under intense investigation and not fully understood yet. This includes vitamin D’s well established role in bone metabolism, and less well established roles in the prevention of diabetes, heart disease, prostate cancer, muscle fatigue, postmenopausal weight gain and hypertension, and the list goes on. It is believed that people with adequate vitamin D levels have an overall increase in longevity compared with those with D deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency can sometimes be treated with diet modification, and almost always with over the counter supplements (prescription drugs are required in some cases).

Foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D include fatty fish such as herring, catfish, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and eel (also cod liver and beef liver, but who really wants that…), and whole eggs.

So pay attention, and make sure your doctor pays attention, to vitamin D, the frequently unmentioned vitamin.

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