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An Overlooked Vitamin Becomes a Star: Vitamin D
by Stuart Tomc, Nordic Naturals Educator

Vitamin D, once thought to merely prevent rickets, is the new darling of the science and supplement worlds. Vitamin D now has piles of research supporting its role in immune function, healthy cell division, and bone health. Many studies are finding a connection between low serum vitamin D levels and an increased risk of certain types of autoimmune disease, neurologic disease, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease. So, it is no coincidence that 40-60% of the entire U.S. population is vitamin D deficient.

How is it that so many people are deficient in Vitamin D? First, you must understand how this fat-soluble vitamin is made and how it is absorbed in the body. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that needs sunlight in order for your body to manufacture it. When ultraviolet light (UVB) from the sun hits the skin, pre-vitamin D is formed and this begins the production of active vitamin D. Active vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption, helping to maintain bone health and also has roles in cell division and immune function. Vitamin D can be obtained through diet via egg yolk, salmon, and cod liver oil, however, most vitamin D is consumed through fortified foods like milk. Because sunlight is the primary source of Vitamin D and few foods contain it, it's no wonder why a high percentage of the population is deficient in this vitamin.

Many factors influence the body's ability to make and absorb vitamin D. These factors include: where you live, the season, how much time you spend outdoors without sunscreen, skin pigmentation, being 50 and older (by 2012 this will be 100 million people), being obese, pollution, and having healthy intestines (those with Crohn's disease and celiac disease malabsorb fats and this includes fat-soluble vitamin D). Solely breast-fed infants are also at risk because breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D. Those with aging skin, those with darker skin, and those who are obese have been found to make vitamin D less efficiently.

The latitude where you live determines how much sun you are exposed to during the year and how much vitamin D you are ultimately going to make. The range of UVB light that allows vitamin D formation is not achieved in northern latitudes of the U.S. and Canada during the winter months. With no ability to make pre-vitamin D in the winter months at these latitudes, oral intake of vitamin D is essential. Studies conducted on the populations at these latitudes have found correlations between low vitamin D levels and certain conditions like multiple sclerosis, depression, and autoimmune diseases.

Winter is also cold and flu season and vitamin D's role in immunity has been found to be an important link to understanding sickness at this time of year. Researchers are now saying it is no coincidence that flu rates are higher in the winter when vitamin D levels are at their lowest due to less sun exposure. Recent studies found those with low levels of vitamin D were 40% more likely to have had a respiratory illness. Some researchers are suggesting that the childhood epidemics of autism, asthma, and autoimmune diabetes have links to low vitamin D levels. Some theorize that all seem to have increased with warnings to avoid the sun and wear sunscreen, coupled with the severe decline in activity and increased time indoors watching television or using the computer.

The best way to know your vitamin D levels is to have a blood analysis performed. Be sure to have serum 25(OH) D levels analyzed. Some practitioners still use serum 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D which is often high (not low) in cases of vitamin D deficiency. Ideal levels should be above 50 nm/ml.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels issued by the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board include: birth to 12 months of age 1000 IU/day and ages 1 and up 2000 IU/day. Research suggests that sensible sun exposure (usually 5-10 minutes two or three times per week without sunscreen) and increased dietary and supplemental vitamin D intakes are reasonable approaches to guarantee vitamin D sufficiency.

Derived from either fish or sheep, cholecalciferol is the most absorbable type of vitamin D supplement. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can take the ergocalciferol form of vitamin D. Nordic Naturals offers a vitamin D3 in the highly absorbable cholecalciferol form. Nordic Naturals Vitamin D3 is in a carrier oil of organic extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in heart-healthy omega-9, oleic acid. Nordic Naturals also offers Omega-3D in softgel and liquid form for a combination product of fish oils and vitamin D. This product provides EPA and DHA in their naturally occurring triglyceride form and ratios with 1000 IU of vitamin D per serving.

Get your vitamin D levels checked today; there's a good chance you could be one of the many Americans with a vitamin D deficiency. And if you are, get yourself out in the sun a few times a week (though be sure that none of your medications warn against sun exposure), and definitely consider a vitamin D supplement, especially in the winter. Your bones, immune system, and cells will thank you!

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