February 11, 2014

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn't properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.

Functions of Vitamin D

  • Vitamin D is an essential vitamin required by the body for the proper absorption of calcium
  • It is essential for bone development
  • It helps in control of cell growth and neuromuscular functioning
  • Vitamin D is required for proper immune functioning and alleviation of inflammation

Rich Sources

  • Cod Liver Oil (Cod liver oil provides 10001 IU (1667% DV) per 100 gram serving)
  • Fortified Cereals
  • Caviar
  • Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring
  • Eggs
  • It is widely added to many foods such as milk and orange juice
  • Vitamin D is also naturally made by your body when you expose your skin to the sun, and thus, is called the sun-shine vitamin.

Recommended Daily Intakes

  • 19 - 50 years: 600 IU (recommended dietary allowance)
  • 70 years and older: 800 IU (recommended dietary allowance)
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding females: 600 IU (recommended dietary allowance)


A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to rickets, a disease in which bones fail to properly develop. Further, inadequate levels of vitamin D can lead to a weakened immune system, increased cancer risk, poor hair growth, and osteomalacia, a condition of weakened muscles and bones.

Deficiency Symptoms
Being severely deficient for a period of months could affect your health in a number of ways, including feelings of depression, low resistance to infections, and suffering from increased pain and inflammation.
A deficiency which last for a period of years may chronically damage your health and increase the likelihood that you will obtain a serious degenerative disease.

People at Risk of a Vitamin D Deficiency
  • Breastfed Infants who are not in the Sun - The amount of vitamin D in breast milk depends on the amount of vitamin D in the mother. However, breast-milk typically does not contain adequate amounts of vitamin D. Be sure infants get at least some exposure to the sun (at least 10-20 minutes) to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D.8
  • Older Adults - As skin ages it is less and less able to make vitamin D from the sun, so vitamin D has to be attained from foods or supplements.
  • People With Little Sun Exposure on the Skin - Wearing sunscreen, or lots of clothing, hampers the creation of vitamin D from the sun
  • People with Darker Skin - Melanin, a pigment found in skin, reduces the body's ability to manufacture vitamin D from the sun
  • People who have Problems Absorbing Fat, or are on Extreme Low Fat Diets - Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it is found in fats, and your body has to be able to digest fats in order for you to absorb the vitamin D.
  • People who are Obese, or People Who have Had Gastric Bypass Surgery - Excess fat in the body absorbs vitamin D, effectively reducing the amount available for body functions. Those who have undergone bypass surgery are missing part of their upper intestine which hampers Vitamin D absorption
  • People Taking Certain Medications (medications used to alleviate inflammation, weight-loss drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs and medicines used to control and stabilize epileptic seizures

Overdose Disease

Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by mega doses of vitamin D supplements and not by diet or sun exposure. The toxicity may lead to build up of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause symptoms such as poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems

Pregnancy and Vitamin D

It’s certainly no surprise that nutritional needs during pregnancy increase dramatically as the process of incubating a fetus requires additional micro and macro nutrients. While a chronically poor diet can have long term ramifications while not pregnant – think obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome – for the developing child however, a pregnant mom’s inadequate nutritional intake can undermine the immediate health of both mom and child while also impacting the birthing process itself.
For example, while most clinicians understand the importance of vitamin D in overall human health, what may possibly get overlooked are the health benefits of the sun. Specifically and most importantly, the sun and its life-giving ultra violet radiation is vital in order for our bodies to endogenously produce vitamin D. This may be reflected by an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis in the offspring of mothers who were exposed to minimal amounts of sunlight during pregnancy.
Additionally, low vitamin D status can lead to increased risks of asthma and allergic rhinitis later in life as well as impaired growth and skeletal problems.  
Finally, according to another study, “vitamin D deficiency correlates with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, and bacterial vaginosis, and an increased risk for C-section delivery.”
While there is little consensus on optimal vitamin D levels for most individuals, let alone mothers during pregnancy, one study found that supplementing pregnant women with 4000 IU of vitamin D daily from the 12th-16th week of pregnancy to delivery was safe and generally effective in reaching the study’s clinical goal of 80 nmol/L.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another fundamentally vital part of any complete nutritional pregnancy regimen. The omega-3 fatty aciddocosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is critical for optimal brain health and function at all ages of life but the research literature is very clear that DHA provides brain-supportive benefits in infants as well as the developing fetus. DHA helps with brain development while supporting learning, memory, visual acuity and cognition. DHA has even been shown to have an interesting and complex relationship with neurotransmitters as it can help mitigate the symptoms of postpartum depression by influencing both serotonergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission.
Iron, zinc and folate are all required for proper neonatal intellectual and motor skill development. Because of the rapid growth rate and neurological expansion of the fetus and neonate, requirements for these important nutrients are exceptionally high. Since ideally, the primary nutritional vehicle for the newborn is breast milk, and since many moms find that getting enough iron and zinc in their diet may be difficult (red meat can be the best source of both zinc and iron), supplementation may be warranted.
Another nutrient associate with proper neurological, motor, metal and psychological development in the neonate is the mineral iodine. The correlation between maternal hypothyroidism and adversely affected fetal development is unquestioned.
Ensuring that pregnant moms pay special attention to appropriate nutrition can be as simple as putting her on a properly formulated prenatal multivitamin. In this simple way both baby and mom can be assured that their fundamental nutritional needs are being met during this time.


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