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Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin D

Wouldn’t it be great if one vitamin could build stronger bones, protect against depression and many diseases or even help you lose weight? Let’s check how we can get vitamin D, who is at risk of having Vitamin D deficiency and how much vitamin D is too much?

How Does Sun Give You Vitamin D?
Most people get the vitamin D from sunlight. Your body makes its own when the sun shines on your bare skin. But you need more than that. Skinny people might get enough in 5-10 minutes on a sunny day, a few times a week. But the use of sunblock, cloudy days and the low light of winter, all interfere. Those with darker skin tones and older people don’t make as much from sun exposure. That’s why it’s better to rely on supplements and food.

Dining With Vitamin D
Many of the foods we eat lack in vitamin D. Fish such as salmon,mackerel or swordfish, is one big exception and may provide a healthy amount of vitamin D in one serving. Other fatty fish such as sardines and tuna have some “D,” but in much lower amounts. Small amounts are found in beef liver,egg yolk, and fortified foods like milk and cereal. Ice cream and cheese do not usually have added vitamin D.

Start Your Day With Vitamin D
Choose your breakfast foods wisely, and you can get an important amount of vitamin D. Many types of milk are fortified, including some soy milks. Cereal, bread, orange juice, and some yogurt brands also commonly have added vitamin D. Check the labels to see how much vitamin D you’re getting.

Vitamin D and Weight Loss
Body fat traps vitamin D, and make it less available to the body. That’s why, people who are obese usually have low blood levels of vitamin D. Adding this supplement to a calorie-restricted diet may help overweight people with low vitamin D levels lose weight more easily. But to confirm that benefit, more evidence is needed.

Vitamin D Boosts Bone Health
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, from infancy into old age. It aids the body absorb calcium from food. In older adults with osteoporosis, a daily dose of “D” and calcium helps to prevent brittle bones and fractures. It also showed a reduce in falls of older people.
Children need “D” to build strong bones and prevent rickets, a cause of bowed legs, weak bones and knock knees. That’s why adding the vitamin to milk helps to eliminate rickets.

Vitamin D and Diabetes
There’s a link between a low vitamin D level and type 1 and type 2 diabetes but there’s not enough proof to recommend taking this supplement to prevent this disease.

Low “D” and Depression
Vitamin D plays a role in brain function and development, and low levels of this vitamin have been found in patients with depression. But the Vitamin D supplementation won’t help reduce the symptoms of depression.

Are You Vitamin D Deficient?
Problems converting vitamin D from sunshine or food can set you up for a deficiency. Factors that increase this risk include:
· Age 50 or older
· Dark skin
· Overweight & obesity
. Low levels of sunlight exposure
· Milk allergy or lactose intolerance
· Diseases that lower nutrient absorption in the gut, such as celiac or Crohn’s disease or surgeries like gastric bypass
· Being institutionalized
· Taking some medications such as seizure medications
Using sunscreen may interfere with getting vitamin D, but abandoning it can significantly increase the risk for skin cancer. So it’s better to look for other sources of “D” in place of prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun.

How Much Is Too Much Vitamin D?
Very high doses of vitamin D can raise your blood calcium level, and cause damage to blood vessels, kidneys and heart. The upper tolerable limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU/day, set by the Institute of Medicine. You can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun because your body stops making more but supplements might do so.Always ask your doctor before taking any supplements.

Christelle Bedrossian
Beirut, Lebanon

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Dietitian Christelle Bedrossian