Have you ever heard a coworker comment that they wanted a window office or were stepping outside into the sunlight to “get some vitamin D”? While sun exposure does prompt the body to make this important nutrient, overexposure to the sun can increase skin cancer risk.
WHAT IS VITAMIN D AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium (for bone strength). It also helps muscles move smoothly and give the immune system a boost. Vitamin D reduces the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Some use it to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis.
However, it can be challenging to get enough vitamin D because it’s only naturally found in a few foods, fatty fishes and fish oils, egg yolks, liver and mushrooms. Some U.S. food manufactures add vitamin D to milk and cereals to boost your intake. Without vitamin D, bones become soft, thin and brittle, causing a disease called osteomalacia (or rickets if it occurs in children).
Approximately 30 to 50 percent of the general population has a vitamin D deficiency. While studies are still ongoing on the full impact of this nutrient on the body, research indicates that deficiency could increase insulin resistance and therefore associated with diabetes, high blood pressure and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
WHY ARE SO MANY VITAMIN D DEFICIENT?
There are several factors that can influence Vitamin D deficiency. Some of these factors include:
Merely getting older can reduce vitamin D levels. Why? Your body becomes less efficient in processing the nutrient as you age.
Simply put, it’s hard to get vitamin D naturally. It is found in heart-healthy fish that are high in omega-3. While food companies do add the nutrient in milk and some other products, some physicians state that this has not helped the nationwide trend of Vitamin D deficiency.
Skin cancer kills. While sun exposure may provide a good source of vitamin D, this benefit is outweighed by the risk of developing melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
First, speak with your physician. He or she will conduct a blood test to determine your current vitamin D levels. The easiest way to increase this level is to take a supplement. Your doctor will be able to make a recommendation.
Second, be sure to follow-up to determine how you are progressing. By being a partner in your health care, you can prevent many health problems before they begin.