CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
Every day it seems like I hear someone talking about vitamin D. Two of my friends were tested and told they are deficient. I am 47 and take a multivitamin with D in it, plus I take calcium, and it has D in it. I am going to be tested to see if I am deficient at my next doctor's appointment. Why is this such a problem all of a sudden? -- Dianne
Though vitamin D was discovered 87 years ago by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, it has recently been a hot topic in both conventional and alternative medicine. This fat-soluble supplement maintains normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood and must be present for your body to build a powerful steroid hormone called calcitriol.
We know vitamin D is essential for strong bones and teeth; it works in harmony with other nutrients in our body to support bone mineralization and demineralization. However, it plays a much bigger role in our health by aiding cell growth and regulating processes that keep our immune system running efficiently.
In fact, there are those who firmly believe that many chronic diseases and ailments such as depression, chronic pain, kidney disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon and breast cancer, cardiovascular disease and even the common cold could be treated with vitamin D. Others are not so quick to put it up on such a tall pedestal. Therefore, studies are continually being conducted to understand the full picture and scope of this vitamin.
Let's do some background work first. The magnitude of interest surrounding vitamin D is because studies are learning more about its benefits and recognizing that many and perhaps up to 90 percent of us are deficient today.
Why today? One obvious reason is sunshine. At a time when we are trying to limit our exposure to the sun, we are unfortunately blocking valuable doses of vitamin D, aka the sunshine vitamin.
Because our bodies cannot produce vitamin D on its own, we must get it through specific foods or allow 40 percent of our skin be exposed to sunshine a couple of hours a week. Hmm -- not so easy to do, particularly for anyone living north of about 35 degrees latitude, where sunshine is not so easy to find year-round. And why would anyone soak up the sun to get this nutrient and risk skin cancer and wrinkles? The benefit just doesn't outweigh the danger which raises the question: