It is estimated that about 3 in 4 Americans suffers from a vitamin D deficiency. Recent studies also have defined a variety of high-risk groups, including pregnant women, the elderly and those with dark skin. The studies have come as quite a shock to many who were sure they were getting enough of the “sunshine vitamin.” And if you’ve not been getting enough rays recently, it’s possible that you also could be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.
The Impact of a Vitamin D Deficiency
A vitamin D deficiency is believed to lead to hair loss, depression, osteoporosis, and rickets, as well as other, possibly more dangerous, conditions and illnesses. Some of the most well known include:
Diabetes — Diabetes and a vitamin D deficiency have been linked on numerous occasions, and recent research conducted by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has found more evidence to suggest a correlation between the deficiency and type II diabetes. Although the link has yet to be conclusively accepted by medical professionals, there is enough evidence to justify further studies.
Other studies have found that vitamin D also increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Researchers at Massey University concluded that those with a sufficient level of vitamin D in their body were at lower risk of developing diabetes than those who were lacking.
Weight Gain — A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to weight gain by research conducted through the University of Minnesota. Studies showed that when a low-calorie diet was accompanied by sufficient levels of vitamin D in the body, the weight loss was more pronounced than in those who followed a low-calorie diet while vitamin-D deficient. Further research has shown that those who had enough vitamin D found it easier to lose abdominal fat than those who didn’t. This may have something to do with those suffering from a deficiency having over twice the amount of required antibodies fighting thyroid-related cells.
Cancer — Perhaps most alarming is the link between vitamin D and cancer. While a vitamin D deficiency isn’t thought to directly cause cancer, it is believed that those who do have a sufficient level of vitamin D in their body are less at risk of developing cancers of the digestive system, including colon and pancreatic. Laboratory studies have also shown that vitamin D can help to lower the risk of breast and prostate cancer, and geographic studies have found that those who live in sunnier climates (and hence receive more vitamin D) also have a lower-than-average cancer rate.
What Can You Do?
Australia’s National Health and Medical Council have a few suggestions to ensure you are receiving enough vitamin D. These include:
. Ensure you receive an adequate amount of sunlight exposure each week.
. Take at least 10 mg of vitamin D daily if you are unable to get out in the sunlight.
. Make sure you include vitamin D in your diet, such as through fortified milk.
Supplementation might be necessary, especially during the winter months of the year when sunlight is at a minimum. Although there are no rules governing the amount of vitamin D that should be taken daily, it’s not uncommon to find that those who are aware of the problems are taking much higher amounts than suggested, and there are consequences to taking too much.
With a vitamin D deficiency putting people at risk of rickets, diabetes, weight gain, and even cancer, it is vital to ensure that you are receiving the right amount. If you are unsure whether or not you need to take a supplement, speak to your doctor. He will be able to give you advice based on your current vitamin levels and your risk factors.