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Did you know Joseph Pilates suffered from rickets as a child?

Rickets is a disorder that children suffer that results in weak or soft bones. Symptoms include bowed legs, stunted growth, bone pain, large forehead, and trouble sleeping. The most common cause of rickets is a lack of vitamin D or calcium in a child’s diet. Both are essential for children to develop strong and healthy bones. Vitamin D is also essential for adults in helping fight disease, boost your immune system, reduce depression and assist in weight loss.

Research suggest that Vitamin D may play a role in reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, decreases your chance of developing heart disease, reduce your likelihood of developing the flu.

Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression.

Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in not only rickets but also fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia). You also need vitamin D for other important body functions.

Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when it’s directly exposed to sunlight. You can also get it through certain foods and supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.

Many factors can affect your ability to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D through the sun alone. These factors including your exposure to pollution, using sunscreen, spending time outdoors, and having pigmented skin (the higher the levels of melanin, the less vitamin D absorbed by the skin).

These factors contribute to vitamin D deficiency in an increasing number of people. That’s why it’s important to get some of your vitamin D from sources besides sunlight.

To find out if you have a vitamin D deficiency, you can get a simple blood test.  If you have a deficiency, your doctor may order X-rays to check the strength of your bones.

Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain and other health issues.

If you’re diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will likely recommend you take daily vitamin D supplements. You should also make sure to get vitamin D through sunlight and the foods you eat.

Few foods contain vitamin D naturally. These include:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • egg yolk
  • shrimp

It can be hard to get enough vitamin D each day through sun exposure and food alone, so taking vitamin D supplements can help.

How much do you need?

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 once thought. Normal blood serum levels range from 50 to 100 micrograms per deciliter. Depending on your blood level, you may need more vitamin D.

Research also shows that consuming 1,000 IU (25 mcg) daily would help 50% of people reach a vitamin D blood level of 33 ng/ml (82.4 nmol/l). Consuming 2,000 IU (50 mcg) daily would help nearly everyone reach a blood level of 33 ng/ml (82.4 nmol/l).

Another analysis of seventeen studies with over 300,000 people looked at the link between vitamin D intake and heart disease. Scientists found that taking 1,000 IU (25 mcg) of vitamin D daily reduced heart disease risk by 10%.

Based on current research, it seems that consuming 1,000–4,000 IU (25–100 mcg) of vitamin D daily should be ideal for most people to reach healthy vitamin D blood levels.

However, don’t consume more than 4,000 IU of vitamin D without your doctor’s permission. It exceeds the safe upper limits of intake and is not linked to more health benefits.

For best results, consult with your doctor on what level would be best for you and if you need a Vitamin D supplement.