20 Health Risks and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency from 20 Health Risks and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
20 Health Risks and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
20 Health Risks and Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50 percent of the population worldwide. An estimated 1 billion people across all ethnicities and age groups lack enough of this vitamin, which is crucial for your overall well-being according to research.“Vitamin D deficiency (VDD) is underappreciated condition that can impact your health significantly and can be fairly easily treated,” Jennifer Franceschelli-Hosterman, DO, Geisigner Health System, says.
Vitamin D is unique because the body synthesizes it itself through exposure to sunshine, and it plays a huge role in calcium balance, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. It helps bones mineralize, and it promotes growth and maintenance of strong bones, she adds. Studies have found “widespread and alarming” rates of Vitamin D deficiency in patients with metastatic bone disease.
Research has pointed to Vitamin D deficiency as a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and the conditions associated with cardiovascular disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. People with low levels of Vitamin D (versus the optimal level) were 64 percent more likely to have a heart attack and had an 81 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease, research suggests.
Vitamin D helps in the regulation of insulin, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says, and this way it helps prevent diabetes as it also affects glucose metabolism. Studies have shown significant improvements in Fasting Plasma Glucose and insulin after treatment with Vitamin D, suggesting that Vitamin D supplementation could reduce insulin resistance.
Vitamin D receptors are widespread in brain tissue, and Vitamin D’s biologically active form has shown neuroprotective effects including the clearance of amyloid plaques, a trademark of Alzheimer’s disease. Associations have been noted between low levels of Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s as well as dementia in both Europe and the U.S. The risk of cognitive impairment was up to four times greater in severely deficient adults. Other large studies have indicated that low Vitamin D concentrations may increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Risk increases with age
Older people are more at risk of needing help with changing Vitamin D to a usable form, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. A few factors that contribute to this are decreased dietary intake, diminished sunlight exposure, reduced skin thickness, impaired intestinal absorption, and impaired kidneys which are less able to convert Vitamin D to its active form, research shows.
A new Cochrane Review has found evidence from randomized trials that taking an oral Vitamin D supplement in addition to standard asthma medication is likely to reduce severe asthma attacks. Vitamin D has been increasingly researched for asthma management because it may help to reduce upper respiratory infections (such as the common cold) that can lead to exacerbations of asthma, according to Cochrane.
Mood changes, similar to SAD or “winter blues,” can be a symptom of Vitamin D deficiency, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. “There are several different pathways through which Vitamin D improves mood and reduces chronic pain.” The vitamin acts as a hormone that helps release endorphins, including serotonin, in the brain, she adds.
Studies have investigated whether people with higher Vitamin D intakes or higher blood levels of Vitamin D have lower risks of specific cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute. The cancers for which the most human data are available are colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer. Research suggests that Vitamin D acts as an anti-tumor agent by regulating genes involved in the spread of cancer cells.
Obesity and being overweight increases the body’s need for the vitamin because of the higher amount of fat tissue, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into circulation. “[Obese people] have more trouble converting Vitamin D to a more usable form and often need 2 to 3 times the usual daily dose.”
Controlling blood pressure
High blood pressure causes your arteries to stretch beyond normal. Sometimes the body can produce too many cells in the muscle that lines your blood vessels, which can lead to plaque. Researchers have found Vitamin D receptors on these cells, and Vitamin D can bind to these receptors. This may help to reduce the risk of cells building up in your blood vessels.
This is a condition caused by lack of Vitamin D in kids, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says, and it leads to weakening of the bones. Low levels of the vitamin in the body may produce hormones that cause calcium and phosphate to be released from the bones, leading to frail and soft bones, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Research is increasingly pointing to a reduced level of Vitamin D in the blood as a risk factor for developing MS, and studies are underway to determine if Vitamin D levels influence MS disease activity, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Medical reviews have shown that among people with early-stage MS, those with higher blood levels of Vitamin D had better outcomes during five years of follow-up.
Sunscreen blocks the UV radiation which is responsible for helping make Vitamin D, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. Spending five to 15 minutes outside two or three times a week can be enough, she adds. “Increasing sun exposure is not always recommended as a way to improve Vitamin D levels,” Franceschelli-Hosterman says. “You can improve dietary intake of foods rich in Vitamin D or take supplements.”
There is rapidly increasing epidemiological and strong experimental evidence suggesting a role for Vitamin D in inflammatory bowel disease, which is a chronic illness that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Vitamin D may help the immune system to reduce levels of inflammatory proteins that get overproduced, according to the Vitamin D Council.
If you are on a strict vegan diet, you are at a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency because many of the natural sources of the vitamin are animal-based. Foods that are high in Vitamin D include tuna, salmon, fortified juices and cereal, mushrooms, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. “Cod liver oil is very rich in Vitamin D.” People can also take supplements. Most have Vitamin D3, which is what’s added to cereals and orange juices.
Babies who are breastfed only are at higher risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. Human breast milk contains very little supply the proper amount of Vitamin D, according to National Institutes of Health. (This does not mean you should stop breast feeding as it has many more advantages that benefit both you and your baby.)
You don’t go out much
There is a reason why Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin.” Sunlight helps the body produce it – sunshine is needed for ultraviolet-B (UVB)-induced Vitamin D production in the skin. The rays hitting the skin enable cells to manufacture Vitamin D. If you don’t want to be in the sun for too long, go in the afternoon when the sun is brightest. About 10 minutes can help produce between 10,000 and 25,000 international units of the vitamin.
People with darker skin can also have trouble synthesizing Vitamin D, Dr. Franceschelli-Hosterman says. The problem is that the pigment melanin, which causes skin darkening, reduces the skin’s ability to make Vitamin D after being exposed to the sun. Research has shown that people with darker skin are at high risk of Vitamin D deficiency.