Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Vitamin D – What do you know about it?

Sunbathing is mostly a lost art.  Art?

I started paying a bit more attention to vitamin D when my daughter and a friend were told that blood tests indicated that they were deficient in vitamin D. I didn't know that you could be deficient in vitamin D nor did I understand why this was included in the battery of blood tests. 

It seems that research on vitamin D has increased in recent years and the research has indicated that there detrimental effects from having lower levels of vitamin D. 

Why are we low in Vitamin D?

Most of the vitamin D that your body absorbs is from the sun. While you can get some vitamin D from food, you cannot get the amount you need from food. (so much for those Wonder Bread ads!) Vitamin D is absorbed from the sun and collected in the body in a time release method so that when you need it, it will be there waiting. 

When we all started worrying about skin cancer and avoiding sun exposure and wearing sun screen all the time, we have cut back on the collection of vitamin D through our skin. Also, darker skin does not absorb vitamin D as well. Add into the mix the rise in vegetarianism – natural vitamin D comes from some fish, fish liver oils and egg yolks – there has been a drop in the amount of natural vitamin D that we absorb. 

What does Vitamin D do?

We know that vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is used by the body to strengthen bones.
It also seems that in recent years, researchers have been finding a link between a vitamin D deficiency and higher rates of heart disease in African Americans. In the July 2014 issue of “Diabetes Forecast” magazine, there is an article about the American Diabetic Association funding a study by Dr. Carlos Bernal-Mizrachi . The study is looking into the question of correcting the amount of vitamin D deficiency in African Americans and whether that will lead to a slowing or a halt to cardiovascular disease.   

There was also a study done at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City that found that approximately 50 percent of the patients undergoing orthopedic surgery had a vitamin D deficiency. It is felt that if the patients were tested and prescribed a regime of vitamin D to reduce or eliminate the deficiency that surgical outcomes would be improved. As a result of this and other studies, it is much more common to check a patient’s vitamin D levels pre-surgery. 

Wow! Should I go out and start taking Vitamin D supplements?

No you do not take vitamin D supplements without talking to your doctor.  See, you have made this kid yell at you!

This is not a good idea. You should, however, talk to you doctor about it. See if you have been tested for Vitamin D levels with your normal blood tests and what the results were. See what your doctor has to say about the issue.

If you are the “want to proceed before I talk to my doctor” type (yes, I know you…) Then the safest thing for you to do is go outside. Do not take supplements. Go outside for 5 – 10 minutes and expose your skin to the sun. Do this 2 -3 times a week during the summer. Go out in your bathing suit but do not expose your face to the sun.  

Here is the important part – are you listening? – that was 5 – 10 minutes. Not an hour, not 15 minutes. Just a short exposure 2-3 times a week with no sunscreen to have your body absorb some vitamin D.

But really, talk to your doctor.

Thanks for reading.

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