Understanding Your Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency

Understanding Your Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency

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Whether it’s advertised as a motive to head to your local tanning salon (please don’t go!), an additive to your fav buttery spread, a lab test your doctor orders, or a supplement the pediatrician recommends, it seems vitamin D is gracing the conversations at retail, grocery stores, medical appointments, and beyond.  Vitamins are everyday micronutrients we need in order to live, with vitamin D as no exception.  What’s this vitamin all about and what are the ways to prevent deficiency?

There are four “fat-soluble” vitamins: vitamins A, D, E, and K, which means these nutrients are dependent on the gut’s ability to absorb dietary fat.  Thus, if our digestive system isn’t totally cooperating, such as with conditions like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, the need to address the underlying issue or consider extra vitamin D in our lives could be appropriate.  Vitamin D is important for absorption of calcium and phosphorus, bone and teeth structure, neuromuscular function, cell growth, and immunity.

A June 2019 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics shares that testing for Vitamin D status has increased eightfold since 2004 and claims the most cited reason the test is performed in those under 60 years old is alongside a diagnosis of depression.  This same article proposes that we may be overthinking the vitamin D deficiency conundrum based off of a hyper-interpretation of RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) cutoffs, when in fact; normal limits noted on many lab reports may be above a range considered adequate.  The RDA is 600 IU (International Units) or 15mcg (micrograms) for anyone 1 to 70 years old.

There are a few groups at risk of vitamin D inadequacy, including:  exclusively breastfed infants, older adults, limited sun exposure, dark skin, fat malabsorption, obesity, and those whom have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

Natural dietary sources of vitamin D are scarce: eggs, fish, and mushrooms exposed to UV light(!) are about it.  Thankfully, many of the following fortified foods make up the majority of our intake:

How’s this for enlightening: vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin” (see what I did there?), meaning that the sun’s rays convert vitamin D in our skin (7-dehydrocholesterol) to active previtamin D3, which ultimately becomes active vitamin D (1,25(OH)2D).

It is worth briefly noting that the potential for vitamin D toxicity exists.  This would only be seen at intakes that exceed 4,000 IU or 100 mcg on a regular basis from high dietary supplement use.  Excess sun exposure is not a risk factor for vitamin D toxicity.

Speak with your doctor about any additional concerns you may have about your risk of health issues.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

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