Vitamin D deficiency in the US is wide spread, affecting more than 40% of the people. Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin," and the deficiency is much more prevalent in the northern states and in dark-skinned people. It is also more common in the elderly and the obese. Interestingly, vitamin D is synthesized in the skin from HDL cholesterol (the "good cholesterol"), and people with a very low HDL cholesterol also tend to be more prone to vitamin D deficiency.
In our practice, we check blood vitamin levels routinely, and found that, of those not previously tested, more than 50% were vitamin D deficient.
But why check the vitamin D level?
- In women, Vitamin D plus calcium supplementation helps reduce dangerous hip and vertebral fractures (I'm sure it also happens in men, albeit to a lesser extent). It's an important factor in the prevention of bone thinning in general, especially with advancing age, and in the prevention of the bone pain often associated with bone thinning (osteoporosis and osteopenia).
- Women who took vitamin D supplements for an average of 7 years, in an extensive study, had a 13% lower incidence of breast cancer.
- People with low vitamin D levels have a significantly higher risk of fatal heart attacks, about 27% higher, a frightening statistic (fatal heart attacks account for more than 400,000 deaths a year in the US).
- It has been strongly suggested, although not fully scientifically proven, that Vitamin D helps keep Diabetes type II (the common type) under better control.
- Some cancers may be reduced in people who take vitamin D supplements, or who normally have higher (but still normal) vitamin D levels: Colorectal, breast, prostate and pancreatic.
- There is a marked increase in uterine fibroids in women who have low vitamin D levels.