Vitamin D Supplementation and Disease Prevention

Everybody needs vitamin D. Usually known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D is coming to be known as the cancer prevention vitamin, and possibly even more. Normally, vitamin D is synthesized in the skin after exposure to sunlight. However, people with darker skin or those who live in high northern latitudes are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.Vitamin D deficiency often doesn’t present with any noticeable symptoms, but it can lead to a number of serious conditions. As vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, many conditions associated with deficiency appear in the bones and teeth. The classic condition associated with vitamin D deficiency is rickets, a bone-thinning disease that used to be commonly seen in children. Characterized by stunted growth and bowed legs, this disease has become less common since the introduction of fortified milk in the 1930s. In adults, vitamin D deficiency can result in the bone thinning disorders osteomalacia and osteoporosis, as well as other illnesses such as high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, and, most recently in the news, cancer.Like vitamin C, vitamin D has long been thought to prevent multiple forms of cancer, but until recently the full depth of its importance to cancer prevention has not been fully understood. Now, as more scientific research is directed at the connection between serum vitamin D levels and cancer incidence, it is becoming increasingly apparent that most people require vitamin D supplementation for at least part of the year for optimal health and cancer prevention.Although an adequate intake of 200-400 IU (international units) has been identified as the minimum amount necessary to prevent rickets and other deficiency diseases, optimal intake levels have never been established. However, some health professionals are currently recommending vitamin D supplementation levels of 1000 IU or even more daily.Thanks in part to greater demand; vitamin D supplements are now available in a wide range of formats, from small tablets to liquid suspensions or chocolate flavoured chewables. There is a vitamin D supplement available to meet every need. Supplements are generally affordable and available at most pharmacies. Additionally, vitamin D can be obtained naturally by consuming fatty fish, fortified milk and egg yolks and, of course, by enjoying a healthy dose of sunshine.

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