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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

The Truth About Vitamin D Deficiency: Getting tested is a way to prevent serious health issues, says Maureen A. Young

Jun 28, 2013 07:18PM ● By Maureen Young

Vitamin D deficiency has been researched, discussed, refuted and recognized as a true health issue in the United States. A staggering number of Americans do not get enough vitamin D. According to a study conducted by Dr. Michael Melamed at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2009, more than 70 percent of American children are not getting enough vitamin D, and the number is even higher for older Americans.

A long-term deficiency of vitamin D can lead to numerous serious health problems. Some of the obvious concerns are osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, because vitamin D processes calcium for strong bones, but vitamin D deficiency may also cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, severe asthma and other lung diseases, and an increased risk of cancer, specifically of the breast, colon, prostate and pancreas. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to Type 2 diabetes and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease. There is evidence that deficiency could lead to cognitive impairment in older adults, and is even associated with a larger amount of belly fat.

Symptoms of a deficiency are subtle, but may include bone pain, muscle weakness, low energy and depression. Symptoms may even be nonexistent. Testing to evaluate the level of vitamin D in the body provides valuable information to help determine if someone is getting enough to protect themself against disease and stay healthy.

Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, can be found in fortified foods such as milk, cheese, grains and in food such as eggs, fish and fish liver oil. But research has shown that it is almost impossible to acquire enough vitamin D from diet alone. A supplement or adequate sun exposure is required to reach recommended amounts. Only 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure, two or three times per week, provides adequate vitamin D.

However, increasing concerns about skin cancer has led to avoidance of the sun and the increased use of sunscreen, which blocks vitamin D absorption. Even in sunny Arizona, limited exposure to natural sunlight is thought to play a major role in vitamin D deficiency, especially in the summer months.

Beyond too little sunshine, there are many reasons that someone could be deficient in this critical vitamin. Those with dark skin, are obese, have kidney problems that would prevent the conversion of vitamin D to the active form, have had gastric bypass surgery that may prevent the gut from absorbing the vitamin or those that follow a strict vegetarian diet should get their vitamin D levels checked to determine if supplements are appropriate. The gold standard for screening of vitamin D is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test. In the kidneys, vitamin D changes into an active form of the vitamin, which this test measures. Vitamin D in its active form helps control calcium and phosphate levels in the body.

Getting screened for vitamin D and taking steps to ensure getting an adequate supply can help prevent serious health issues and improve quality of life, today and for the long term.

Maureen A. Young is a customer education advocate for Any Lab Test Now. With five Valley locations, testing for vitamin D is quick and simple. Connect with them at AnyLabTestNow.com/az.

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