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As Winter Comes, So Do Vitamin D Deficiencies

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A string of recent discoveries about the multiple health benefits of vitamin D has renewed interest in this multi-purpose nutrient while increasing awareness of the huge numbers of people who are deficient in it. At the same time, new research of this essential vitamin has even led to an appreciation of it as “nature's antibiotic.”

On issues ranging from the health of your immune system to prevention of heart disease and even vulnerability to influenza, vitamin D is now seen as one of the most critical nutrients for overall health; but it's also one of those most likely to be deficient, especially during winter when the body's production of the “sunshine vitamin” almost grinds to a halt for millions of people in the United States, Europe and other northern temperate zones.

Variations of the vitamin are even being considered for use as new therapies against tuberculosis, AIDS, and other health concerns. As such, federal experts are now considering increasing the recommended daily intake of the vitamin as more evidence of its value emerges, especially for the elderly.

“About 70 percent of the U.S population has insufficient levels of vitamin D,” said Adrian Gombart, a principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. “This is a critical issue as we learn more about the many roles it may play in fighting infection, balancing your immune response, helping to address autoimmune problems, and even preventing heart disease.”

Vitamin D deficiencies were once believed to primarily affect bone health and cause rickets, but it's now understood that optimal levels of this nutrient influence much more than that.

The emerging health issues and key findings associated with global vitamin D research were outlined in a new report published in the journal Future Microbiology.

Scientists at OSU found that vitamin D induces the “expression” of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide gene. This explains, in part, how it helps serve as the first line of defense in your immune response against minor wounds, cuts, and with bacterial and viral infections.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Lynnette - Thanks so much for that information. When you stop to think about it, it does make sense that suncreen would impact Vitamin D absorption, but I hadn't thought about that until you pointed it out. Thanks for letting us know. Pat

December 7, 2009 - 5:10pm

Good question Pat. Clearly living in a sunbelt state offers some benefits to get vitamin D year round however, it is not a guarantee. Some studies indicate people in sunny locales use of sunscreen is higher to protect their skin, a smart choice. However, sunscreen is believed to also inhibit the production of vitamin D because of its ability to screen out UV rays. I tend to believe this view. I was recently diagnosed as being severely vitamin d deficient although I get plenty of rays--some may say too much---but I also use sunscreen to protect my fair skin. I was prescribed huge amounts of vitamin D supplements (50,000 IU) for a month and continue to take a daily dose of 400 IU. I have to say, I have noticed vitamin D has made a difference on many levels. I do have increased energy and I tend to heal more quickly. Hopefully this will also aid calcuim intake to prevent bone loss. Thanks for asking.

December 6, 2009 - 11:47am
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Lynette - Lots of great information here, thanks!
I do have a question for you though. If one lives in a state with year-round sunshine, like Arizona, are your Vitamin D needs impacted?

December 4, 2009 - 6:32pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.