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Lifestyle 11 Nov 2015

Diet and Lifestyle Tips to Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency

The Sunshine Vitamin: Could you be vitamin D deficient?

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient needed for strong bones

Vitamin D is a very important part of your diet. It helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are required for healthy bones and teeth.

You get most of your vitamin D from sunlight on your skin, which is then able to produce vitamin D itself, however, you can also get smaller amounts of vitamin D from oily fish, eggs, and other food items. Check the labels; many spreads, breakfast cereals, and milks are fortified with nutrients such as vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to various health problems

If your vitamin D levels get too low, it can cause your bones to become thin, brittle or misshapen. There are various bone conditions associated with vitamin D deficiency including rickets, osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

Recent research is revealing the important roles vitamin D plays in other bodily functions too. Some observational studies have associated low blood levels of vitamin D with:

  • Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Ongoing trials aim to determine whether vitamin D supplementation will have a beneficial effect on such conditions. If you have any questions about your vitamin D intake, please consult with your physician.

What are the main causes of vitamin D deficiency?

Not having enough vitamin D can lead to health problems. Vitamin D regulates calcium levels, which is very important for strong bones and teeth.

You may be at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if:

  • Your sunlight exposure is limited – the body makes most vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. So people who spend a lot of time indoors, live in northern latitudes, or wear clothes that cover a large proportion of the skin are at risk the most
  • You follow a vegan diet – most natural sources of vitamin D are animal-based such as fish, egg yolks, cheese, milk, and liver
  • You have dark skin – people with darker skin have higher levels of melanin, which reduces the skins ability to make vitamin D from sun exposure
  • You are overweight– vitamin D is soluble in fat and can be absorbed from the blood by fat cells. This is more likely to affect those with a body mass index (BMI) over 30

There are some really easy ways to prevent and treat vitamin D deficiency

Spending 15 to 30 minutes outside with your skin exposed to sunlight, just two or three times a week is enough to produce the essential amount of vitamin D to keep your body levels at an optimum. Try to get outdoors more often and spend some time under the sun. Remember to keep hydrated when outdoors and to protect your eyes from sun exposure.

If you plan to be outdoors for extended periods though, always wear sun protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

If you find it difficult to get regular sun exposure, you can get small amounts of vitamin D from oily fish such as trout, smoked salmon, swordfish, salmon, mackerel, and halibut. You can also get vitamin D from Portobello mushrooms, fortified cereals, tofu, caviar, dairy products, eggs, soy yoghurt and soymilk. You can also take vitamin D supplements or cod liver oil.

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