DESPITE ITS NAME, VITAMIN D is a prohormone and not a vitamin. Vitamins are nutrients our bodies cannot create which we must obtain through diet and supplements. Our bodies can synthesize vitamin D when sunlight hits the skin. We need vitamin D to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorous by the bones and teeth, making bones stronger.
Muscles need vitamin D in order to move, and nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part. The immune system uses vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Vitamin D also helps regulate insulin levels and aids in diabetes management. It supports lung and cardiovascular health.
Lack of vitamin D affects bones and other parts of the body. Growing children who do not get enough vitamin D may have bones that are too soft and unable to support their weight, a disease called rickets. Adult deficiency can result in soft bones (osteomalacia) and decreased bone mass, leading to fragile bones. Vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to the development of certain cancers, especially breast, prostate and colon cancers. Being deficient may increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, multiple sclerosis and osteoporosis as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and seasonal flu.
Research shows children given 1,200 international units of vitamin D per day in the winter reduce their risk of influenza A infection by more than 40 percent. Several studies show an inverse relationship between blood concentrations of vitamin D and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Infants who received 2,000 international units per day of vitamin D had an 88 percent lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes by age 32.
Pregnant women deficient in vitamin D seem to be at greater risk of developing pre-eclampsia and needing a cesarean section. Inadequate vitamin D in pregnant women is associated with gestational diabetes and bacterial vaginosis. However, high levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are associated with an increase in food allergy in the child in the first two years of life.
You can obtain vitamin D three ways: through your skin, from your diet and from supplements. Individuals should get 10–15 minutes of exposure to sunshine three to five times a week. Food sources of vitamin D include cheese, butter, margarine, fortified milk, eggs, yogurt, fish, fortified cereals and juices. Cod liver oil and good fatty fishes such as cod, sardines, swordfish, sockeye salmon, mackerel and canned tuna are excellent sources. As it is difficult to get vitamin D from food sources alone, you may take vitamin D supplements in the form of D2 (ergocalciferol) or D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D breaks down quickly; stores of it in the body run low, especially in the winter.
An estimated 1 billion people worldwide have inadequate levels of vitamin D, and deficiencies can be found in all ethnic and age groups. Industrial countries have seen a resurgence of rickets, previously largely eradicated through vitamin D fortification. If you live north of the line connecting San Francisco to Philadelphia or Athens to Beijing, odds are you do not get enough vitamin D from sun exposure. African-Americans and those with dark skin, as well as older individuals, tend to have lower levels of vitamin D, as do people who are overweight or obese.
Signs of vitamin D deficiency include depression, frequent illness or infection, fatigue, painful bones and back, muscle pain, hair loss and impaired wound healing. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can result in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The most accurate way to measure the amount of vitamin D in your body is the 25- hydroxy vitamin D blood test. If you have not had the test lately, ask your health care provider to have one drawn. A level of 20 nanograms/ milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates deficiency.
There is a scientific debate about how much vitamin D people need. Those at high risk of deficiency may need more. Check with your health care provider about the amount you need. If you live where there is sun year-round, you may not need supplements as long as you get enough sun. Vitamin D3 supplements of 1,000–4,000 IU (25–100 micrograms) should be enough for those who do not have access to the sun. The only way to know if you need a vitamin D supplement is to have your blood levels measured. Vitamin D is essential, and correcting a deficiency is simple, cheap and can have immense health benefits.
Recommended vitamin D dietary intake by age:
Birth to 12 months: 400 IU
1–13 years: 600 IU
14–18 years: 600 IU
19–70 years: 600 IU
71-plus: 800 IU
Pregnant/breast feeding women: 600 IU
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
Lufthansa is starting an innovative new carbon offset program, Compensaid, which will allow customers to purchase CO2 neutral aviation fuels. The platform allows customers to replace the fossil fuel of their flights with sustainable aviation fuel.
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For those without accessibility issues, going to the beach can be simple. There’s nothing to do but pack up your gear, head to the shore and walk out onto the sand. For those who may be inhibited, however, the beach poses more of a challenge.