Vitamin D and Your Health – What You Need to Know

Vitamin D has received a lot of media attention in recent years. Medical studies have linked this vitamin with everything from preventing broken bones, to warding off colds, to even a decreased risk of cancer. While conclusive proof for some these claims is still being looked for, knowing your vitamin D levels can be the first step in taking better charge of your own health.

What is Vitamin D

Like other vitamins, vitamin D is a natural compound essential for maintaining health and achieving growth. Most of the vitamin D in our bodies comes from exposure to sunlight, although a small amount can come from eating foods that have been specially fortified, like cereal or milk. 

Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus, two key minerals for healthy bones. It also works on your immune cells, helping them fight against bacteria. Vitamin D even works on the brain, although scientists have yet to completely understand how this impacts our overall health.

Who Should Check Their Vitamin D Levels

Because the main function of the vitamin is to maintain healthy bones, low vitamin D might not cause any immediate symptoms. For this reason, many people with insufficient levels might not be aware of it. While everyone needs vitamin D, there are some groups who are at especially high risk of having low levels:

  • Older adults
  • People who cannot absorb fat well (such as individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, or liver disease)
  • People who are obese
  • People who have undergone a gastric bypass surgery
  • People with chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • People that take medications that interfere with vitamin D absorption
  • People with limited sun exposure, especially in colder climates
     

What Level is Right for Me?

“For the Pixel by LabCorp™ reports, we reviewed published guidelines from the Institute of Medicine and the Endocrine Society,” said Dr. Dorothy Adcock, Chief Medical Officer.  Pixel consumers receive a report indicating whether their vitamin D levels are high, normal, insufficient, or deficient based on these guideline recommendations. 

“In practice, the level needed to prevent problems from low vitamin D may differ from person-to-person. Risk factors like age, gender, weight, and other diseases you have all play a role in determining the best vitamin D level for you,” Dr. Adcock said. “Knowing your numbers is a good start.” 

Checking vitamin D may tell you about the need to adjust your diet or even start supplements as a way to decrease your risk of future low bone density and bone fractures. Always check with your doctor to discuss your individual results and before starting any new diets or medications including supplemental vitamins.

 

References:

  1. Caulfield, T. et al. “Representations of the health value of vitamin D supplementation in newspapers: media content analysis.” BMJ Open. 31 Dec 2014;4(12): e006395.
  2. Kupferschmidt, K. “Uncertain verdict as vitamin D goes on trial.” Science. 21 Sep 2012;337(6101):1476-78.
  3. “Listing of vitamins.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. 14 Nov 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/listing_of_vitamins.
  4. Nair, R. and Maseeh, A. “Vitamin D: The ‘sunshine’ vitamin.” J Pharmacol Pharmacother. Apr-Jun 2012;3(2):118-26.
  5. Al-Badr, W. and Martin, KJ. “Vitamin D and kidney disease.” CJASN. Sep 2008;3(5):1555-60.
  6. Tello, M. “Vitamin D: What’s the ‘right’ level?" Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School. 26 Oct 2018. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-d-whats-right-level-20161219....

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