Vitamin D deficiency has become a pandemic with about 1 billion people all over the world having low levels of vitamin D. Although adequate levels of vitamin D can be produced by the body with regular exposure to sunlight, vitamin D insufficiency prevails in United States due to several other factors like dietary habits, increasing pollution and genetics.
The fact that vitamin D alone can influence about 3000 genes of our body (out of the total 24000 genes) clearly signifies its importance in our system. Extensive studies have explored the role of vitamin D in health problems.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to over a hundred health issues till now. Here are top health risks you might face due to low levels of vitamin D:
1. Brain damage: A recent study led by researchers at the University of Kentucky showed that low levels of vitamin D can cause damage to some proteins in the brain of rats.
The study also suggested that deficiency of vitamin D can affect the oxidative status of the brain, cognitive performance and memory power.
2. Cardiovascular Risk: A population-based study of 9,949 adults showed that vitamin D deficiency is significantly associated with increased risk of fatal cardiovascular events.
The study considered adjustments for smoking, physical activity and other factors contributing to heart diseases and concluded that vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of fatal cardiovascular diseases (CVD) by 62%.
3. Hypertension: Research based on a large scale observational data showed that people having low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a form of vitamin D) had a higher risk of developing hypertension.
However, the correlation is not yet found.
4. Diabetes: The number of diabetic people is increasing day by day and most of them might be deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is required to balance sugar levels in the blood by regulating the secretion of insulin.
Research suggests that low levels of vitamin D increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
5. Flu: Do you suffer from recurrent cold and respiratory infections? Instead of blaming the seasonal changes, check your vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D has an important role to play in activating the cells of your immune system which help to fight infections.
6. Anaemia: Anaemia occurs when your body does not have sufficient levels of red blood cells that carry oxygen to various parts of the body.
But the main underlying reason for anaemia might be vitamin D deficiency.
7. Weak bones: Vitamin D plays an important role in absorbing calcium from the food you eat in the intestine. Therefore indirectly vitamin D deficiency results in weak, soft and achy bones.
Lack of calcium deposition due to vitamin D deficiency also causes rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. It also affects the bone density in adults, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
8. Infertility: Daily morning walk under the sun can help you to boost your reproductive health.
After a detailed analysis of several studies, Austrian physicians found that vitamin D stimulates the production of the male hormone testosterone and female hormone progestrone.
9. Aging: As you age, your bone mass will gradually decline. But with low levels of vitamin D, your body will start ageing prematurely.
A study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows that vitamin D insufficiency causes early ageing of bone because of reduced bone mass.
10. Depression: Antidepressants is not the only solution for you prolonged sadness and depression. You could actually pep up your mood by restoring your vitamin D levels.
In a systematic review on women suffering from moderate and severe depression, an oral vitamin D therapy for 8-12 weeks significantly improved depression symptoms in participants.
11. Cancer: Low levels of vitamin D also makes it to the list of hundreds of things that are known to increase the risk of cancer.
There is abundant evidence supporting the role of vitamin D levels and reduced risk of colon, prostate and breast cancers. In fact, evidence also suggest that vitamin D can help in cancer treatment. A study carried out by scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center revealed that increased level of vitamin D reduced cancer growth by 75 percent.
12. Increasing Dental Cavities: With the lack of Vitamin D, people are more prone to the risk of Dental diseases, specially cavities.
A review of 24 controlled clinical trials encompassing 2,827 children found a 47% reduced risk of Dental cavities with vitamin D supplementation.
As per the current recommendations, daily intake of vitamin D should be 2000 IU. Although sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D, you can also obtain it through your diet. Natural form of vitamin D3 is present in dairy products like milk (100 IU in one 8 ounce glass), yogurt (80 IU) and egg yolks (one yolk offers 20 IU of vitamin D). But the dietary sources are seldom enough.
To start supplimentation a dose of vitamin D3 60000 IU with milk every week for 8 weeks followed by a similar dose monthly maybe enough to guard the deficiency.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005 to 2006 data were analyzed for vitamin D levels in adult participants (N = 4495). The overall prevalence rate of vitamin D deficiency was 41.6%, with the highest rate seen in blacks (82.1%), followed by Hispanics (69.2%).