For those of us who live in North America, there is a very good chance that we don't get all the Vitamin D we need. In fact, about 42% of American adults are deficient in this nutrient. Though other studies suggest that the number is actually closer to 75%. Being deficient in vitamin D is associated with a number of health concerns including risk for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.
It has also been found that if you have been diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer, your chances of survival may be lower than someone with normal levels of vitamin D. This may sound alarming, though it shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, vitamin D isn't found in too many foods - with the exception of salmon and fortified milk and yogurt. The only other way to get the nutrient, is to expose your bear skin to the sun. But if you work indoors all day, this is highly unlikely.
The best way to discover whether you are deficient in vitamin D is to take a blood test. Your levels should be between 45 to 50 µg/mL. This is something you may want to consider if you form part of these groups:
1. You are over 55
Of course, aging does have its perks: you are smarter, more confident and may be enjoying a leisurely life of retirement. Nevertheless, there are some downside. As we age, we tend to become less mobile, making it difficult to spend time outdoors, which would result in getting less vitamin D. In addition, ageing skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently. According to a 2007 Canadian study, about 50% of older American adults with hip fractures were found to have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. So, you're likely falling short on the nutrient unless you are taking a daily supplement.
2. You work in an office
Working a 9 to 5 job would mean that you don't get much sun. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with occupations that limit sun exposure are unlikely to obtain adequate vitamin D from sunlight. This makes supplementation and a smart diet key to staying healthy.
3. You have dark skin
Reports continue to show lower levels of vitamin D in those that identify themselves as black in comparison to those who identify themselves as white. This is because darker skin makes it more challenging for the body to produce vitamin D from sunlight, according to experts from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's Foods and Nutrition Board. If you're darker skinned, you should rely on dietary sources of the nutrient, rather than sunlight to reach your daily vitamin D mark.
4. You suffer from inflammatory bowel disease
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, this means its absorption depends on the gut's ability to take in fat. Fat malabsorption is associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) - this includes conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. In fact, it has been shown that up to 70% of people with IBD have insufficient vitamin D levels, according to a Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology report. If you suffer from IBD, speak to your doctor and check whether you are getting enough vitamin D.
5. You have a high body fat percentage
If your body mass index (BMI) is over 30 or you have a high body fat percentage, it may be more challenging for vitamin D to circulate throughout your body, the NIH reports. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that you will always be deficient. Be sure to speak to your doctor and find out just how much vitamin D you will need.
6. You are taking certain medications
We do need certain medications to keep our health on track, however, corticosteroid medications such as prednisone, as well as weight-loss drugs like orlistat, and the cholesterol-lowering drug cholestyramine can impair vitamin D metabolism. If you take any one of these drugs, be sure to check in with your doctor to find out the best way for you to get the right dose.
7. You suffer from depression
Did you know that people with low levels of vitamin D in their blood are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, than those with higher levels? Medical experts aren't sure why this is the case, however one hypothesis is that the vitamin may alter hormones and areas of the brain that affect and regulate mood.
8. You suffer from chronic headaches
If you suffer from regular headaches, low blood levels of vitamin D may be to blame, according to a 2017 study of 2,600 men. Study participants with the lowest vitamin D levels had a twofold risk of chronic headaches compared to study participants with the highest levels. The specific link between headaches and vitamin D remains unclear, researchers believe the nutrient may help combat the inflammation that causes migraines and headaches.