Vitamin D Health

You may have heard of the “sunshine vitamin,” but what is vitamin D, exactly? Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that helps your body to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Getting enough of this fat-soluble vitamin promotes bone growth and development, and may also help prevent other diseases, from asthma to breast cancer.

Your body is able to make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to UV rays in the sun. Many people can get all the vitamin D they need by spending a few minutes outside in direct sunlight each day. However, some people are vitamin D deficient, often because they get little exposure to the sun.

Health Problems Caused by Low Vitamin D

The important of vitamin D in regulating bone health has been known for many years. Over time, low vitamin D can lead to a softening of the bones. In children, this condition is known as rickets. In adults, it is called osteomalacia.

In recent years, doctors have observed a relationship between low vitamin D to a number of other conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Breast, colon and prostate cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis.

Vitamin D and Asthma

A recent study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Clinical Care Medicine showed a possible link between asthma in children and low levels of vitamin D. In the study, children with low levels of vitamin D were found to have more severe asthma than children who had adequate vitamin D intake.

Vitamin D and Cancer

There is evidence that suggests that vitamin D may help prevent certain cancers, particularly those of the breast, colon and prostate. However, the exact relationship between vitamin D and cancer development is not clear.

Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease

Low vitamin D levels have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart failure and stroke. One study, presented at the 2009 meeting of the American Heart Association, found that adults with very low levels of vitamin D were 78 percent more likely to have a stroke than those with vitamin D levels that were considered to be normal. Another study found that people with heart disease who have low vitamin D levels had increased rates of depression, compared to people who got enough of the nutrient.

Vitamin D and Osteoporosis

Most people recognize that getting enough calcium helps prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, and low levels of this nutrient have been linked to osteoporosis. People who don’t get enough vitamin D may not be able to absorb adequate amounts of calcium, which in time can make their bones brittle and prone to fracture.

Vitamin D and Other Health Conditions

Vitamin D intake has also been linked to conditions such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Glucose intolerance
  • High blood pressure
  • Multiple sclerosis.

Resources

HealthDay Staff. (2009). Low vitamin D levels linked to heart disease. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from the US News