(NaturalHealth365) With inadequate levels of vitamin D existing in a staggering 75 percent of adults and teenagers in the United States, researchers continue to explore the potential harmful effects of this national vitamin deficiency.
According to Harvard School of Public Health – which estimates the number of vitamin D- deficient people worldwide as over 1 billion – lack of vitamin D may play a role in many serious diseases, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Now, new research seems to show that vitamin D deficiency can worsen the physical functioning of severely obese people by further impairing their mobility.
The danger of vitamin D deficiency
In a study of 252 severely obese people published in the April 2014 issue of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that vitamin D-deficient participants walked slower and were more sedentary than those with normal levels, raising their risk of poor physical functioning and shortened lifespans. Conversely, the subjects with the highest levels of vitamin D walked the fastest, and reported getting the most exercise.
Noting that severely obese people are already eight times more likely to have poor physical functioning than people of normal BMI, researchers pointed up the need for improved vitamin D status in this group. Severe obesity – a body mass index of over 40 – currently affects 6.5 percent of the adult population in America.
The link between overweight and vitamin D deficiency has been explored in other studies. Not only are people with low levels of vitamin D more likely to be obese, but a recent study published in PLOS Medicine suggests that obesity, in itself, can actually be a cause of vitamin D deficiency – which in turn causes poorer mobility and exercise habits among the severely obese – a truly vicious cycle.
Why are more people becoming vitamin D deficient?
Vitamin D is produced in the body from cholesterol through UVB sunlight contacting the skin. Experts cite increasing use of sunscreen as a major factor, along with a trend towards people spending less time outdoors in general. Plus, let’s not forget, atmospheric pollutants such as chemtrails and industrial smog can also affect the ultraviolet power of natural sunlight.
According to HSPH, people who don’t log at least 15 minutes of sun exposure a day are at risk of vitamin D deficiency; because melanin in skin blocks ultraviolet rays, African-Americans and people with darker skin may need even more time in the sun to synthesize vitamin D.
Does the sun increase the risk for skin cancer?
Controversy currently surrounds the dilemma of balancing the benefits of sunlight against the risk of skin cancer. Lowered levels of vitamin D are linked with heart and kidney disease, several types of cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and overweight. But, many studies show that sun exposure heightens the risk of skin cancer.
Of course, dermatologists continue to defend the use of sunscreen, saying that most people don’t apply it thoroughly – or often – enough to block all ultraviolet rays. But, conventionally-trained physicians never consider the cancer-causing ingredients found in sunscreen. Naturally, if you are concerned about the sun, you can always minimize your exposure by wearing a hat or lightweight, long sleeve shirts and pants.
The best policy may be to use moderation and common sense – avoid overexposure and sunburns at all cost, and get small amounts of gentle, controlled sun exposure. If you are at heightened risk for skin cancer, the advice of avoiding the sun from 10 am to 4 pm is probably wise.
What does science tell us about vitamin D?
An increasingly overweight and aging population is already at risk for chronic and degenerative diseases. Studies have shown that vitamin D can alleviate inflammatory response of white blood cells, boost production of proteins that combat microbes, help maintain bone density and even help prevent falls by increasing muscle strength.
In a review published in 2009 in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed fracture prevention trials involving over 40,000 elderly people to report that 800 IU of vitamin D a day reduced hip and non-spine fractures by 20 percent.
An earlier study, published in 2007 in Journal of the American Geriatric Society, demonstrated that participants taking 800 IU of vitamin D daily had a 72 percent reduction in falls over the placebo group.
How can I increase my vitamin D intake for disease prevention?
Eating farm-fresh eggs, raw dairy products and fatty fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines are good ways to get more vitamin D in your diet. But – because true vitamin D food sources are uncommon – many people choose to take vitamin D supplements.
According to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), the NIH’s recommendations of 600 IU per day for adults and 800 IU per day for elderly adults are too conservative. Many people, HSPH declares, could use even more vitamin D, to promote bone health and ward off disease. In fact, research by the Garland brothers, suggests that daily vitamin D supplementation of 5,000 to 10,000 IU may be needed for those severely deficient in vitamin D.
However, this fat-soluble vitamin can interact with medications; you should consult your doctor to find out the ideal dosage for you.
As the prevalence of social media, television programming, video gaming and sedentary lifestyles cause people to spend more and more time indoors, vitamin D deficiencies continue to increase. For this, we may pay a high price which is both tragic and unnecessary. According to the research, a little bit of the ‘sunshine’ vitamin can go a very long way in preventing diseases and prolonging lives.
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