Vitamin D Deficiency Part 1
June 07, 2019
Submitted by Leslie A. Davis, Executive Director, The Aspens at Mariposa Point
Living in one of the sunniest cities in the US, you would think very few people have a Vitamin D deficiency, but that may not the case.
Vitamin D comes from the sun?
The body makes vitamin D when skin is directly exposed to the sun, and most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs this way. Skin exposed to sunshine indoors through a window will not produce vitamin D. Cloudy days, shade, and having dark-colored skin also cut down on the amount of vitamin D the skin makes.
However, despite the importance of the sun to vitamin D synthesis, it is prudent to limit exposure of skin to sunlight in order to lower the risk for skin cancer. When out in the sun for more than a few minutes, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 8 or more. Tanning beds also cause the skin to make vitamin D, but pose similar risks for skin cancer.
Why do I need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a nutrient found in some foods that is needed for health and to maintain strong bones. It does so by helping the body absorb calcium (one of bone’s main building blocks) from food and supplements.
Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, for example, nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. Vitamin D is found in cells throughout the body.
More recent findings have linked vitamin D deficiency to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, and metabolic disorders including diabetes. Cognitive impairment and dementia must now be added this list. Vitamin D receptors are widespread in brain tissue, and vitamin D’s biologically active form has shown neuroprotective effects including the clearance of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Who has vitamin D deficiencies?
Older adults are at increased risk of developing vitamin D insufficiency in part because, as they age, skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently, they are likely to spend more time indoors, and they may have inadequate intakes of the vitamin. People who avoid the sun or who cover their bodies with sunscreen or clothing should include good sources of vitamin D in their diets or take a supplement.
Join us next month where we will discuss how much vitamin D a person needs and resources to increase your vitamin D.
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Sources available upon request.
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