Vitamin D’s main role is that is helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. When the weather is sunny, we are able to get most of the vitamin D we need from sunlight on our skin. Our other main source of vitamin D is from our diet. Foods such as oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolk, and fortified grains are rich with it. The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A healthcare professional may order this test if a person is at risk of having vitamin D deficiency, including:
- People who don’t get much exposure to the sun
- Older adults
- People who are obese
- Babies who are breastfed only (formula is usually fortified)
- People who have had gastric bypass surgery
- People with malabsorption disorders (e.g., Crohn’s disease)
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. Another potential issue stemming from vitamin D deficiency is osteoporosis, which is seen most prevalent in the elderly—particularly women. This is because all our bones naturally lose calcium over a lifetime, but the process of creating a healthy baby adds an extra toll on women’s bones. Additionally, low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Not consuming enough of the vitamin in the diet, particularly for vegans
- The kidneys not being able convert vitamin D to its active form
Vitamin D toxicity is a rare but potentially serious condition that occurs when you have excessive amounts of vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D toxicity is usually caused by megadoses of vitamin D supplements—not by diet or sun exposure. The main consequence of vitamin D toxicity is a buildup of calcium in your blood, which can cause poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
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