Vitamin D plays essential role in health | News, Sports, Jobs – The … – Marquette Mining Journal

Vitamins are up near the top of that list of favorite subjects. Various benefits are touted, some appearing quite outlandish, and their exaggerated claims often have no scientific backing. This doesn’t stop many individuals who are hoping to cure their disease, or are looking to halt the aging process. In contrast, physicians are looking for definitive proof via “Evidenced Based Medicine” prior to recommending dietary changes. Unfortunately, this is often difficult due to the length of time needed to perform studies that provide conclusive information about dietary changes.

In recent years, vitamin D has gained a reputation for being a miracle nutrient of sorts– boasting benefits from improving physical health, to a more positive mental state. But research has been on-going, and evidence has emerged on how great the vitamin’s value is. While some physicians argue most Americans would be wise to consume more vitamin D, others say further research needs to be conducted before health care professionals should urge their patients to supplement with it.

According to some sources, nearly 50 percent of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient, a situation that is unnecessary, and easily corrected. There has been some controversy over the amount of vitamin D needed for healthy functioning. Recent research indicates that you need more vitamin D than was previously thought, and many experts are changing their opinion on what is an appropriate recommendation for optimum health.

You might ask what vitamin D is, and what does it do? What do we know about vitamin D? We know vitamin D is, technically, a type of hormone. It helps the body absorb calcium from food, and plays a role in keeping bones dense. It’s also believed to help fight depression, reduce the frequency of headaches, and even reduce your risk of catching the flu and other infections. Additionally, optimal levels aid in fighting the “battle of the bulge”. It is well known that vitamin D deficiency is associated with developing obesity, and the health problems linked to obesity. Boosting your levels can help a person lose some of those excess pounds, and seems to have an appetite suppressing effect. Many researchers believe that all individuals with obesity should have their vitamin D levels tested, and to start taking supplements if they are deficient.

How does your body get vitamin D? Your body produces it naturally when it is directly exposed to sunlight, and a little can go a long way. Many elements come into play concerning skin synthesis of vitamin D. The latitude and air quality of where you live, as well as your sunscreen habits may help determine how much of this nutrient is produced in the epidermis. It’s hard to get from food sources alone, although there a few foods that provide higher levels. Examples include salmon, sardines, egg yolk and shrimp. People in areas with frequent overcast days, older adults, and some women will benefit from a Vitamin D supplement. How much sun exposure does one need? It is believed you need only 10 minutes a day of midday sun exposure, especially if you have fair skin, but that is only if someone is not using sun block.

Nearly every cell in the body needs vitamin D to function at full capacity. Adequate vitamin D intake is important for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D is believed to supply a protective effect against multiple diseases and conditions such as cancer, hypertension, both types of diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults. Researchers recently discovered an interesting link between vitamin D and diabetes. According to a recent study, people with lower amounts of vitamin D in their body are more likely to have this common metabolic condition.

As to the recommended daily intake, the levels were moved to 600 international units in 2010. But many experts feel that these recommendations miss the mark, and are still too low, and set the mark at 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Normal blood serum levels range from 50 to 100 micrograms per deciliter. The recommended form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. This is the natural form of vitamin D that your body makes from sunlight. Supplements were once made from the fat of lambs’ wool but more recently, Vitamin D2, calciferol, is derived from irradiated fungus. Because this is not the form of vitamin D made by your body, many nutritionists recommend taking the most natural D supplement. Yet a recent study suggested that vitamin D2 works as well as vitamin D3. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. It can affect as many as 2,000 genes in the body.

Can you get to much? This is another frequent question from those who think of vitamins as just another drug. Vitamins can cause problems, although that typically only occurs with truly excessive quantities. The consequences of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood which can cause poor appetite, nausea and vomiting. Weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems also may occur. Treatment primarily consists of stopping the excess consumption.

The relationship between Vitamin D and wounds is complex and not well understand. An ample amount of vitamin D is essential for proper healing, a fact not typically utilized by those who treat this kind of problem. These lesions have been found to heal faster when D is provided to an individual with a slow healing ulcer. Also discovered is that skin which has been injured needs vitamin D to trigger the production of a substance which enables the immune system to fight infection. Further evidence of this complex relationship is that wounds actually seem to cause a deficiency in vitamin D levels.

The solution to the “epidemic” of vitamin D deficiency is simple. Inadequate vitamin D can have serious consequences, and the means to prevent this is easy. Get outside and “catch some rays”. But supplementation is also recommended: we all need some of that “sunshine vitamin” to be healthy. If you still have doubt, do some internet research, and learn more about this essential topic….and keep reading these pages. In summary, it is no longer in question: nutrition is one of the building blocks of health and well-being, with Vitamin D is one very essential component.

Editor’s note: Dr. Conway McLean is a podiatric physician now practicing foot and ankle medicine in the Upper Peninsula, having assumed the practice of Dr. Ken Tabor. McLean has lectured internationally on surgery and wound care, and is board certified in both, with a sub-specialty in foot orthotic therapy. Dr. McLean welcomes questions, comments and suggestions at drcmclean@penmed.com.

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