From Depression to Cancer: Vitamin D is that Important
Vitamin D is important to more than just our bones. It's essential to the proper functioning of multiple body systems and when we get too little, there are many problems and that can occur. Conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
- Multiple Sclerosis
Vitamin D and Cancer
Preliminary research has linked vitamin D as a protective agent for specific types of cancer. It is suggested that increased amounts of vitamin D protect against colon, breast, and prostate cancers. There are also theories that deficiencies in vitamin D due to lack of exposure to the sun increase risks for the development of certain cancers. This research continues, as there is a lack of evidence to currently support these initial theories, however correlations do exist.
Vitamin D and Hypertension
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of the development of hypertension (increased blood pressure). Interestingly, there exists a correlation between the development of hypertension and the season. More hypertensive cases are noted during the winter months than summer, spring, or fall. It is suggested that this may have to do with decreased sun exposure. It is also suggested that calcium deficiencies are correlated with high blood pressure. This evidence is only preliminary, and more research is necessary for any clear interpretations to be determined.
Vitamin D and Calcium for Osteoporosis
Calcium can not be absorbed by the body without the presence of adequate amounts of vitamin D. Regulation of proper calcium levels is necessary for the growth and maintenance of bones as well as the proper functioning of the immune system. Adequate regulation of calcium levels is critical for maintenance of a healthy bone density. Osteoporosis, a disease leading to increased risks of broken and fractured bones, is mainly diagnosed by low bone density levels.
How Much Vitamin D is Necessary?
Adult males and females, children and mothers nursing/breastfeeding require 5 micrograms of vitamin D on a daily basis. Adults, over the age of 50, require higher daily amounts at 10 micrograms per day. Older adults, over the age of 70, require even higher amounts of vitamin D at 15 micrograms per day. These values are based on averages, specific individuals may require more or less per day dependent on individual factors.
Sources of Vitamin D
Adequate amounts of vitamin D are typically achieved through normal exposure to the sun. Sunlight is utilized by the body for the natural synthesis of vitamin D. There exist very few foods that contain abundant amounts of vitamin D. The following is a list of food known to be rich in vitamin D by name, amount, and micrograms absorbed.
- Salmon, 3 ounces, 13 micrograms
- Sardines, 3 ounces, 5.5 micrograms
- Mackerel, 3 ounces, 5 micrograms
- Fortified Milk, 8 ounces, 2.5 micrograms
- Fortified Orange Juice, 8 ounces, 2.5 micrograms
- Fortified Cereal: Ranges from 1-1.5 micrograms dependent upon the particular cereal.
- Medium Egg Yolk, 0.5 micrograms
Deficiencies and Toxicity of Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiencies and toxicity occurrences are rare. Vitamin D toxicity is associated with hypercalcemia (abnormally high amounts of calcium in the bloodstream) causing symptoms of kidney stone development, bone loss, and random calcifications throughout the body, particularly the heart and kidneys. Vitamin D deficiencies are typically associated with osteomalacia, rickets (in children), and general muscle pain and weakness. Osteomalacia, soft bones, is caused by the progressive lack of adequate amounts of vitamin D, as it is necessary for proper bone maintenance and preservation. Rickets, associated with the "bowing" of extremities, is caused by impaired bone mineralization due to a vitamin D deficiency.