Friday, March 06, 2009Vitamin D Deficiency Is More Common Than You Think
During the time of the Industrial Revolution, our civilization began to spend significantly more time indoors. It was discovered that certain types of bone diseases had become common. In children, stunted growth and deformity was observed, soon to be known as Rickets. Adults suffered from a thinning of the bones called Osteomalacia. It was discovered that these conditions were due to a deficiency of the vital nutrient vitamin D. This vitamin is created in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. In response to the emerging indoor lifestyle, several industrialized countries began to fortify dairy and cereal products with this essential nutrient. An improvement in bone health was the outcome.
Recently, it has come to the attention of the scientific and medical communities that vitamin D deficiency is again widespread amongst our general population. A study performed on a group of children living in the northeastern United States found that 75 percent of the participants had seriously low vitamin D levels.
Why this widespread vitamin D deficiency? There may be a connection between the lack of time spent outdoors, possibly combined with the use of sunblock, and the recent rise in vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is unique as no food contains vitamin D in great concentrations. The Inuit population of the polar north was able to obtain satisfactory amounts of this vitamin by feasting on cold water fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This does not seem like an appetizing option for the rest of us. Obtaining the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D through fortified milk would require us to drink ten glasses a day. Got Milk?
Research is emerging that vitamin D deficiency is involved in many disease processes thought previously unrelated. Vitamin D deficiency is implicated in conditions such as colon and breast cancers, depression, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and certain autoimmune diseases. Lack of vitamin D is also suspect in increased risk of catching the flu.
Exposing the skin to the sun for 15 minutes a day a few times a week allows the body to produce vitamin D. However, that is only if you live in a geographic area that receives a high enough concentration of UVB rays. People who live north of an imaginary line drawn from Los Angeles, California to Columbia, South Carolina would not receive strong enough rays to produce enough vitamin D during the winter months. This poses a problem for those who spend the winter in New Jersey. For those of us who do spend our winter months in the northern latitudes, it is advisable to research a quality vitamin D supplement.
There are very few supplements that I choose to use on a daily basis, preferring to rely on healthy foods and herbs for nutrients. Vitamin D, however is a part of my regular routine. Here at the New Eastern Health Center we have a vitamin D supplement available, a natural form of superior quality vitamin D3 that it is easily metabolized.