Why is Vitamin D so important?
- Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.
- These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
What is Vitamin D deficiency?
- Vitamin D deficiency means that you do not have enough vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is unique because your skin actually produces it by using sunlight.
- Fair-skinned individuals and those who are younger convert sunshine into vitamin D far better than those who are darker-skinned and over age 50.
People at risk of Vitamin D deficiency
- Aren’t often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
- Are in an institution like a care home
- Usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
- If you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – you may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
- You should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
In healthy people, the amount of vitamin D needed per day varies by age. The chart below shows the often-cited recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, now the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. It is important to know that these are general recommendations.
What are the health effects of Vitamin D deficiency?
Getting enough vitamin D may also play a role in helping to keep you healthy by protecting against the following conditions and possibly helping to treat them. These conditions can include:
- Heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Infections and immune system disorders.
- Falls in older people.
- Some types of cancer, such as colon, prostate and breast cancers.
- Multiple sclerosis.
What does your diet have to do with getting enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods.
- Oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
How is a Vitamin D deficiency diagnosed?
- There are two types of tests that might be ordered, but the most common is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, known as 25(OH)D for short.
- You do not need to fast or otherwise prepare for this type of test.
How is Vitamin D deficiency treated?
- The goals of treatment and prevention are the same—to reach, and then maintain, an adequate level of vitamin D in the body.
- While you might consider eating more foods that contain vitamin D and getting a little bit of sunlight, you will likely be told to take vitamin D supplements.
- Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. D2, also called ergocalciferol, comes from plants. D3, also called cholecalciferol, comes from animals.
- You need a prescription to get D2. D3, however, is available over the counter.
- It is more easily absorbed than D2 and lasts longer in the body dose-for-dose.
- Work with your doctor to find out if you need to take a vitamin supplement and how much to take if it is needed.
Can you ever have too much Vitamin D?
Yes. You can get too much vitamin D if you overdo the supplements. Interestingly, you cannot get too much vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D toxicity is, thankfully, quite rare but can lead to hypercalcemia and together the symptoms can include:
- Increased thirst and urination.
- Poor appetite.
- Ataxia (a neurological condition that may cause slurring of words and stumbling).
Do not take higher-than-recommended doses of vitamin D without first discussing it with your doctor. Also, be cautious about getting large doses of vitamin A along with the D in some fish oils. Vitamin A can also reach toxic levels and can cause serious problems.
How can I help prevent Vitamin D deficiency?
- Eating more foods that contain vitamin D:
- Getting some exposure to sunshine—but not too much: Exactly how much sun exposure is needed isn’t clear. 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week to the face, arms, legs or back may be all that is needed to absorb a suitable amount of vitamin D.
Sources – https://www.nhs.uk/