Calcium? Phosphorus? Vitamin K? Magnesium? Vitamin D? The answer is…all of them! Like many bodily processes, building and maintaining strong bones is a finely tuned team effort! And vitamin D is a heavy hitter on this particular team. In fact, without vitamin D, our bodies are unable to absorb or utilize calcium and phosphorus. How’s that for a vital member of the bone building team?!
What else makes vitamin D so special? Â This workhorse…
-decreases risk of cancer, especially breast, ovarian, colon,Â and prostate cancers.
-promotes weight loss, particularly loss of abdominal fat.
-prevents the inflammatory response associated with periodontal disease.
-reduces the risk of heart disease by improving blood flow and loweringÂ blood pressure.
Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin at all, but rather, a fat soluble chemical that functions much like a hormone in the body. The human body synthesizes vitamin D in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight (hence, the sunshine vitamin!). It takes about 10-15 minutes of full body sun exposure daily to create all the vitamin D our bodies require. Sounds like a no-brainer, and yet research suggests that:
APPROXIMATELY 75% OF AMERICANS ARE VITAMIN D DEFICIENT!
You are at risk of deficiency if:
You use sunscreen religiously (hooray for you!!). Sunscreen can cut production or vitamin D by 95%, but that doesn’t mean you should go au naturale! The link between sun exposure and skin cancer is airtight!
You have high melanin concentration/dark complexion. African-Americans have a significantly increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.
You rarely go outdoors or cover your body entirely for climate, work, orÂ religious reasons.
You live in an urban area with significant air pollution.
You are obese. Excess body fat appears to store this fat soluble vitamin, rendering it less bio-available.
You take certain drugs that can interfere with vitamin D absorption or hasten excretion. Antacids, steroids, anticonvulsants, and thyroid hormone all impact vitamin D availability.
HOW MUCH VITAMIN D IS ENOUGH? The AI (adequate intake) is currently established at 400 IU daily, but many health experts believe it should be significantly higher (1000IU or even higher). As with all nutrition, food sources beat supplements any day! Â Foods high in vitamin D include:
Fortified milk, orange juice, and cereals
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS? Supplements of vitamin D3, the most readily absorbed form of vitamin D, are widely available in strengths ranging from 100-2000IU. Talk to your physician to determine whether you need to make supplements a part of your daily routine. Vitamin D levels are easily checked and monitored via a simple blood test. Don’t get caught without your D!!
Reviewed by Â Dr. Lisa Elconin