Vitamin D: The Essential Nutrient
Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Decline In Overall Health & Wellness
A recent study published by the American Medical Association found that older individuals with reduced Vitamin D levels are at a greater risk of cognitive function decline. In fact, the team found that subjects who were severely deficient were 60% more likely to experience significant cognitive decline compared with those with sufficient levels.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and a precursor hormone that plays an important role in many biochemical functions: bone renewal, cell growth, blood cell formation, hormone balance, and glucose metabolism. It enters our bodies through exposure to sunlight, diet, and nutritional supplementation. However, very few diets provide enough Vitamin D to sustain optimal levels. In addition, the amount of sun exposure the average person receives has decreased drastically due to “modern” lifestyles and skin cancer concerns.
While there are many factors that affect the level of vitamin D in the blood, most relate to synthesis of vitamin D3. Location, time of day, season, skin pigmentation, use of sunscreen, age and dietary intake all play an important role in the circulating level of vitamin D.
Location, for example can dramatically affect the production of vitamin D3 in the skin. Researchers have found that individuals living in higher latitudes, such as Boston, Massachusetts produce little or no vitamin D from November to February, while farther north in Edmonton, Canada, this period is extended from October to March.
To maintain minimal levels of vitamin D during these months, reserves of vitamin D produced in the summer and stored in the fat cells become liberated from their reservoirs. However, researchers in Canada have recently shown that during winter months at least 34% of the northern population are vitamin D deficient despite the reserves and require supplementation.
Reducing the skin’s UVB exposure via sunscreen or clothing can cause similar vitamin insufficiencies since they retard the skin’s ability to absorb radiation. According to a study of veiled women in Turkey, for example, out of 51 women examined (ages 14 to 63), 82% were found to be severely vitamin D deficient, while another 8% were moderately deficient.
In addition, about half of the deficient women complained of muscle pain, weakness or fatigue-symptoms consistent with profound vitamin deficiency. These results confirm that reduced exposure to sunlight compromises the endogenous levels of vitamin D.
Deficient Vitamin D Levels Have Been Linked To A Growing List of Health Concerns:
- Cognitive Function
- Heart Disease
- Hormone Balance
- Immune Function
- Insulin Resistance
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Weight Loss / Obesity
Age is another important factor in maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels. With age, we lose some of our ability to synthesize and absorb Vitamin D: our skin thins and the amount of Vitamin D precursor decreases as well. The importance of maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin D as we age to prevent disease and illness has become the topic of an increasing number of research studies. The reason: the ability to prevent Vitamin D deficiency is possible by taking a nutritional supplement!
While Vitamin D supplementation has overwhelming benefits backed by research, it is important to talk to your healthcare practitioner or a pharmacist to discuss what Vitamin D supplement and dosage strength you should take. There is some debate over the optimal Vitamin D dosage; however, there are safe guidelines and blood tests to determine the optimal dose for each individual.
Nutritional supplements can interact with medications and certain physical conditions. Make sure to talk to your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist prior to incorporating any new supplements into your diet.