Vitamin D is largely manufactured in your skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Recent reports suggest that nearly half of the general population in Western countries have low levels of D in their blood.
The main reason for this is insufficient exposure to sunlight. Surprisingly, many athletes are also low in Vitamin D. Many athletes train indoors and even those that do train outside usually do so early in the morning or towards evening, when the sun is not at it’s strongest.
What Does It Do?
Vitamin D is an important ingredient in the process of calcium absorption. Even you are eating plenty of calcium rich foods, you still will be deficient if you don’t have enough D in your body.
Every organ in the body has Vitamin D receptors and over 2,000 genes are influenced by Vitamin D.
Lack of D through low exposure to the sun has been linked to disease and such conditions as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Heart Disease, Diabetes, Colon Cancer and Depression.
There is also evidence to suggest that a lack of Vitamin D may cause Arthritis to progress more quickly. Deficiency of this Vitamin is also linked to Dementia.
Vitamin D and Calcium
Vitamin D assists the body in the absorption of calcium from the intestines. If your training or your job prevents you from getting outside most of the time, you may not be getting enough sunlight to generate the D levels you need to absorb the calcium that you are ingesting. Calcium loss is especially high in female athletes who have stopped menstruating as the result of an intense training program or extremely low body-fat levels.
Are You Deficient in Vitamin D?
A simple blood test will indicate whether you are deficient. In general about half of your Vitamin D requirements should come through exposure to sunlight, with the other half coming from the foods you eat. People who are deficient will have weak or brittle bones as a result of the inability to utilise calcium.
You may be Vitamin D deficient if:
- You don’t get enough exposure to the sun
- You always cover your skin when outdoors
- You have dark skin
- You are obese
- You are elderly
- You follow a vegan diet
The older we get, the less efficient we become at absorbing nutrients. The skin is not as good at making Vitamin D as it once was. In addition, older people generally spend less time exposed to the sun.
Best Sources of Vitamin D
Apart from getting out in the sun more, you can increase your body’s Vitamin D levels by eating a plentiful supply of oily fish, eggs, cheese and mushrooms. You can also purchase soy, milk and drink powders that are fortified with Vitamin D.
Our dietary needs are 5 micrograms per day if we are under the age of 50 and 10 micrograms for people between the ages of 50 and 70. Anyone over the age of 70 should be getting 15 micrograms of Vitamin D from their diet each day.
Vitamin D supplements commonly provide 25 micrograms (1,000 IU) in a single capsule, providing for both dietary and sunlight needs.