Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon, especially as we age. The purpose of Vitamin D in the human body is to absorb calcium, control inflammation, maintain cell growth and is beneficial for healthy immune system functioning which reduces your risk of cancer and other diseases. It also helps muscles and nerves to work properly and is becoming increasingly important in disease prevention. Read how to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels.
Good news about Vitamin D
- Assists absorption of calcium for bone and marrow health
- Prevents bone loss and osteoarthritis
- Prevents heart disease
- Promotes normal cell growth
- Protects immune system functioning
- Controls inflammation
A Vitamin D Deficiency can
- Lead to heart disease (If calcium not absorbed)
- Increase risk of cancer
- a new international study from the University of Exeter Medical School has found that people with a deficiency of Vitamin D have a 53% higher risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
This is such an important vitamin in this day of epidemic cancer and heart disease with many of the small group of foods high in Vitamin D not being most people's favourites, such as beef liver. A vitamin supplement is an easy answer with a multivitamin per day with many providing 1000 IU per tablet which is 250% of the current daily requirement so read your vitamin & supplement labels as well as food labels. The maximum limit per day is 4,000 IU but there does not seem to be a benefit to taking such a large dosage for healthy people. Vitamin D from the sun is safe while there may be possible interactions from taking supplements with common medications such as statins and heart medication.
A growing body of research suggests that vitamin D might play some role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions.
National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet on Vitamin D
Natural versus Supplement
While consuming some foods reduces risk of disease this may not necessarily be true that a supplement give the same benefits, such as beta-carotene. Quite often the benefits of the food (garlic) far outweigh the supplement. Large doses of some vitamin supplements can have negative effects on body function, including the kidneys and liver, and this is called vitamin toxicity or hypervitaminosis. If you already have liver disease definitely consult your doctor before beginning taking a supplement, especially in megadoses. For healthy people the best source of all vitamins and minerals should first be through consuming fresh food products including fruit and vegetables - the natural source.
Foods with natural Vitamin D
Vitamin D is found naturally in limited number of foods such as sardines, tuna, white button mushrooms, milk cheese and yoghurt (also high in calcium), beef liver and egg yolks. Many products such as dairy products and breakfast cereals are now fortified with Vitamin D.
For those on a vegetarian based diet the main source of Vitamin D can be soy (fortified) and mushrooms but again a walk each day will give you the amount of Vitamin D needed for normal bodily function. Vitamin D is not widely found in fruits and vegetables so those on a vegetarian diet who are considering taking a Vitamin D supplement should ask your family doctor to test your Vitamin D levels.
Who should consider taking Vitamin D supplements
If you have a disease, such as osteoarthritis, a supplement of Vitamin D may be recommended by your family physician. Older adults and those with darker skin or who have limited sun exposure should consider taking a supplement daily. Young children in northern climates may need Vitamin D supplements available in liquid form. Vitamin D deficiency is not uncommon in North American women with 40 to 50% unknowingly having a deficiency.
The easiest solution of all is to follow a balanced diet and take a daily 20 minute walk in the sunshine to absorb your daily Vitamin D, which is 400 to 600 IU depending on the person. Walking has the added benefit of a little exercise to increase the "feel good" chemicals (endorphins) in your brain.
- Here is report August 6, 2014 from American Academy of Neurology on the "Vitamin D and the Risk of dementia and Altzheimer disease"
- Vitamin D needs “fat” to be absorbed into the body and Vitamin D is needed by the body to absorb calcium
- Calcium is very important to maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth. It also helps muscles and nerves to work properly.
- Food sources of Vitamin D from Health Link BC
- Large doses of Vitamin D (up to 300,000 IU) can be injected for a severe deficiency
Links and References
- Vitamin D and sunshine's ultraviolet rays
- Vitamin D sources for Vegans
- Vitamin D and heart disease John Hopkins University
- Vitamin D and cancer prevention from National Cancer Institute
- List of benefits, side affects, etc for Vitamin D and other nutrients
- More information on Vitamin D from University of Maryland Medical Centre
- Lots more information on Vitamin D from Wikipedia
Possible interaction with medications and side effects
Steroids : Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone, often prescribed to reduce inflammation, can reduce calcium absorption and impair vitamin D metabolism. These effects can further contribute to the loss of bone and the development of osteoporosis associated with their long-term use.
Other medications : Both the weight-loss drug orlistat (brand names Xenical® and alliTM) and the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine (brand names Questran®, LoCholest®, and Prevalite®) can reduce the absorption of vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins. Both phenobarbital and phenytoin (brand name Dilantin®), used to prevent and control epileptic seizures, increase the hepatic metabolism of vitamin D to inactive compounds and reduce calcium absorption.
From: National Institutes of Health Fact sheet on Vitamin D
The information contained in this blog is based on personal opinion and experiences and is not to be misconstrued in any way as health care advice but is provided for interest and hopefully learning purposes.
Always seek qualified medical care and guidance if you think you have a health concern. The author assumes no responsibility for all content including information from other sources.
Changes (August 2014) ~ it has been noticed that over the years referenced links from other sources have sometimes been deleted or substituted since original publishing of Caramel and Parsley article.
The author assumes no responsibility for all content including information from other sources.
NOTE: The is an "older" article and since publishing (2014) much more recent medical information on this important vitamin has been researched and updated. Always check with your family physician before making major dietary or other changes (2021)