We don’t often think about whether we’re getting enough vitamin D in the sunnier spring and summer months but we should. That’s because 41.6 percent of all Americans and 1 billion people worldwide are believed to be deficient in vitamin D, causing some researchers to refer to the situation as the “ignored epidemic.” Blacks and Hispanics had much higher rates with 82.1 percent and 69.2 percent being deficient in vitamin D, respectively.
New research published earlier this month may have insight into one of the reasons for the wide-scale deficiency. The research presented by the European Society for Endocrinology at their annual meeting found that increased belly fat and obesity may be playing a role in the deficiency.
It may surprise you to learn that the more abdominal fat you have, the more likely you are to be deficient in the essential nutrient, which is technically a hormone. According to research presented in EurekAlert, research found a correlation between obesity and vitamin D deficiency. What’s not yet clear is whether the body hoards fat as a result of the vitamin D deficiency or whether the excessive fat causes a vitamin D deficiency. More research should help to clarify whether it is a cause or effect relationship.
Obesity is a global issue of epidemic proportions and is estimated as a cause for 2.8 million deaths every year. So, getting on top of both the obesity and vitamin D deficiency is critical to many peoples’ health and wellbeing. Considering that a vitamin D deficiency is linked to the risk factors for many serious health conditions, this is not a situation that is to be taken lightly. Vitamin D deficiencies are commonly linked to poor bone health but can also be a factor for heart disease, autoimmune conditions, respiratory tract infections and other serious health concerns.
Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis and degenerative nerve or brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. It has been linked to a variety of cancer, particularly breast, prostate and colon cancers, as well as stroke, birth defects and more.
The nutrient is believed to control the immune system and is known to be linked to improved mood. It has even been found to reduce pain levels and protect the brain against toxic chemicals.
Is Sunlight Enough?
Most health practitioners tell people that moderate sunlight exposure provides sufficient vitamin D, but if that were true, it is unlikely the incidence of vitamin D would be so high, particularly during the spring and summer months. The other sources of vitamin D include food and supplements. The primary food sources of vitamin D include: fish, liver and egg yolks. Supplementation may be necessary to address widespread deficiencies.
If you supplement with vitamin D, choose D3 or cholecalciferol since it is the form that has been found in research to provide the greatest health benefits. However, if you’re vegan, you’ll want to avoid this supplement since it is usually extracted from fish. Instead, you’ll want to consider synthetic vitamin D2. Nutritionists usually recommend between 800 and 2000 IU but you’ll definitely want to stick to a lower dose if you’re using synthetic vitamin D. The vitamin can be stored in the body so be sure not to exceed these dosages unless you’re working with a health professional skilled in nutritional supplementation.