Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a global health concern affecting about 40 percent of the world’s population (77% in the USA). The health factors that follow decreased vitamin D levels call for more recognition of the harmful effects a deficiency can have on the body.
“Three years ago, the Institute of Medicine concluded that having too-low blood levels of vitamin D created a health risk, particularly as we age when fracture and fall risks increase,” said Mellissa Smith, Laboratory Administrative Director at Jersey Shore Hospital.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from food, strengthening the bones. The nutrient is found naturally in fatty fishlike salmon and tuna, and in small amounts in mushrooms, cheese, and egg yolks. The other natural source for Vitamin D is sunshine, which causes the body to make Vitamin D.
Factors that influence deficiency are limited sun exposure (inherent in living north of Atlanta); obesity; those having gastric bypass; those with dark-skin; and older adults.
Osteoporosis is the most commonly thought-of side effect recognized with vitamin D deficiency; however, absence of the vitamin can also play a part in the development of heart disease, some cancers, multiple sclerosis, depression, and obesity.
The rising awareness of Vitamin D deficiency have the National Institutes of Health in the process of establishing a standardized approach for vitamin D testing to improve detection and treatment. The goal is to avoid inaccurate diagnosis, keeping patients away from unnecessary treatments, testing, and supplementation.
Evaluations to determine if patients are Vitamin D deficient include a laboratory blood test called 25-OH Vitamin D. Evaluations required by doctors are often covered by health insurance, but testing that is not considered medically necessary may result in unforeseen costs. Patients suggested to have vitamin D evaluations should fully understand the reasoning and necessity to avoid any unneeded costs or further testing.
It is also important to understand that Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which is stored in the body. Taking large amounts of Vitamin D supplements can be toxic, if not monitored by your physician. Consult your Physician or Registered Dietitian about appropriate vitamin supplementation.