Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is a fat-soluble nutrient that is found not only in natural foods, but is also manufactured by the body when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. And, it may come as a surprise to many to know that this single vitamin has the potential to not only strengthen our bones and teeth, but is also known to protect against cancer, TB, diabetes, arthritis, the flu and even the common cold.It's ironic however, that despite accessibility to the outdoors, most people aren't getting sufficient quantities. Variations in blood concentrations can result through seasonal conditions, where cold weather protective clothing and the sun's angle in the winter sky limit the amount ultraviolet light that actually reaches the skin. Additionally, skin color and dietary intake, through balanced nutrition or vitamin supplements all affect vitamin D levels in the body.
Amazingly, when the sun's rays hit the skin, the body converts a cholesterol-type compound into vitamin D. And, it only takes 10 to 15 minutes of exposure on the arms or legs to synthesize an adequate daily dose of the nutrient. However, the place where a person resides will have a significant effect on the skin's exposure to the more direct UV rays.
Inhabitants of the more tropical regions will typically have sufficient levels of vitamin D. However, studies reveal that people throughout the industrial world aren't so fortunate. Individuals in more temperate and colder climates aren't reaching the levels currently recommended to protect the health of bones and teeth, much less the even higher concentrations that research has indicated can provide the additional health and cancer prevention benefits.
It's not too difficult to get the required levels if you happen to be white skinned with your body exposed to the sun wearing nothing more than a bathing suit at mid-day in mid-summer, no matter where you happen to be located. Truth is, the human body can generate 10,000 to 12,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D from a half-hour of summer-sun exposure.Unfortunately, when heeding dermatologists' warnings about preventing skin cancer, by limiting sun exposure and using a sunscreen, not to mention wearing a hat, long sleeve and long pant clothing, most individuals aren't able to take advantage of this least expensive and most efficient source of this important vitamin.
Recommended food and other nutritional sources of vitamin D include dairy products, predominantly fortified milk, the meat of oily fish, such as tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel, dark green leafy vegetables, including spinach and broccoli, dry cereal or cereal grain bars as well as, a variety of nutritional supplements.
When vitamin D deficiencies do occur they are usually the result of inadequate dietary availability or intake, increased bodily requirement, increased losses through bodily excretion, impaired absorption and/or utilization by the body where the kidneys cannot convert vitamin D into its active hormonal form. Or, in cases where someone is unable to adequately absorb vitamin D from within the digestive tract, and of course, in situations where there is limited exposure to sunlight.
Daily diets that are deficient in Vitamin D are generally associated with milk allergies, lactose intolerance, and strict vegetarianism. Even infants who are fed only breast milk will also receive insufficient amounts of vitamin D, unless they otherwise receive appropriate levels of vitamin D supplementation.In children, vitamin D deficiency causes the condition known as rickets, which is a bone disease characterized by a failure to properly mineralize bone tissue. Rickets results in soft bones and skeletal deformities. Surprisingly, prolonged exclusive breastfeeding without vitamin D supplementation is one of the most significant causes of the reemergence of rickets. Additional causes can include extensive use of sunscreen products or even increased utilization of day-care facilities, which can result in decreased outdoor activity and lack of sun exposure among younger children.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, which results in muscular weakness in addition to a weakened skeletal structure. Low levels of vitamin D may also increase the risk of developing all forms of cancer.
Unfortunately, obtaining sufficient levels of vitamin D from natural food sources is no easy chore. The established RDA is 200 IU, but many researchers agree the number should fall somewhere between 1,000 IU and 2,000 IU, to lower the risk of cancer and strengthen the immune system. So, for most people, maintaining healthy blood concentrations of this important vitamin will require consuming a balance of vitamin D fortified foods, as well as, ensuring adequate exposure to sunlight.
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Copyright 2007 Harry Monell. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the entire contents of this article with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, including this notice.
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Harry Monell is writing articles encouraging consumer awareness about a wide range of health and nutritional topics. . For additional information and resources, please visit The Healing Power Of Vitamins And Nutrients