Vitamin D Deficiency – A Common Health Problem Today

Studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is associated with various diseases, such as bone loss, cardiovascular, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and neurological diseases. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium in bones and to improve muscle strength. Without sufficient vitamin D, the body cannot adsorb calcium and this leads to bones becoming thin and brittle. So, vitamin D from sun exposure or dietary intake is necessary.

The body makes Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight, this is the reason why it is called as ‘sunshine vitamin’. In this article, we will discuss the role of vitamin D on our health.

What causes low levels of vitamin D in people?

  • Less exposure to sunlight: Levels of vitamin D get depleted without enough sunlight. Moreover, the body cannot adsorb calcium into bonees if there is insufficiency of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common among people who spend a lot of time indoors during the day time.
  • Not consuming recommended levels of vitamin D: People who follow strict vegetarian diet are likely to have vitamin D deficiency, because most of the vitamin D food sources are animal based such as fish, fish oils, eggs, liver, milk, etc.
  • People who have darker skin: Darker skin people have high melanin which reduces skin’s ability in making vitamin D in response to sunlight.
  • Kidney and liver disease: People who are suffering from kidney or liver disease are at higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency.
  • People who are obese (overweight ): People with more body mass have low blood level of vitamin D.
  • Elderly people have thin skin when compared to young people and this is the reason they can’t produce much vitamin D.
  • People who cover their skin with sunscreen or cloth when going outdoors might not leave skin exposed to sunlight.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

  • Pain in bones
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Bone softening, ultimately leading to fractures.

Diagnosis of vitamin D deficiency and management

  • Diagnosis
    • Get a blood test done for checking the levels of vitamin D.
    • The blood test 25(OH)D is done to find out the level of vitamin D in your blood. This is the only test that will tell you whether you are getting enough vitamin D or not.
    • Normal range of vitamin D levels in the blood should be between 40-50 ng/ml and in some cases 50-100 ng/ml. Vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml indicates serious health problems.
  • Management
    • Deficiency of vitamin D can be accomplished by exposure to sunlight, as well as through foods and supplements.
    • Vitamin D supplements can meet the required levels of vitamin D in the blood.
    • Higher doses of vitamin D supplements are avoided by physicians, as there is a risk of toxicity.

Prevention and treatment of vitamin D deficiency

  • Exposure to sun (15 min of walk everyday ) is needed for satisfying body’s vitamin D requirement. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin from ultraviolet rays of the sun.
  • Include fish in your diet once or twice a week. Fish is the only significant source of vitamin D, whereas meat and eggs provide a limited amount of vitamin D.
  • Children and adolescent are advised to consume at least 500 ml of vitamin D fortified milk everyday.
  • Health care professionals advise women to take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy, in order to avoid deficiency in infants.

However, it is better to consult your doctor or local physician before taking the supplement. They can suggest you the right dosage of the supplement.

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