Reuters Health recently reported here that more than half of postmenopausal women are vitamin-D deficient.
Not many people really think about vitamin D, which you obtain mostly from exposure to sunlight. The body cannot produce vitamin D on its own, so it relies on sunlight and food sources to obtain vitamin D.
As the body ages, vitamin-D production from sun-exposed skin starts to slow down. Furthermore, the body's ability to convert vitamin D to its active state also diminishes, leaving many older people severely vitamin-D deficient and at increased risk for life-threatening fractures caused by osteoporosis.
Vitamin D is absolutely essential for bone health. Without it, calcium cannot be properly absorbed. Rickets, also known as soft bone disease, can develop in children who are vitamin D deficient. Legs start to bow, and bones start to soften if a young, growing body doesn't have enough vitamin D.
Food manufacturers fortify products such as margarine, milk, and cereal with vitamin D to eradicate this problem in children who simply don't--or can't--get enough vitamin D.
People most at risk for vitamin-D deficiency are the elderly, those who don't get adequate sun exposure; those who choose not to eat any dairy products (such as strict vegans); or those who avoid dairy products because they are lactose intolerant.
It's also a little known fact that people who have darker skin don't absorb vitamin D as well as fair-skinned people, so they tend to be more vitamin-D deficient.
Besides weakened bones, vitamin-D deficiency is now suspected in increasing the risk of many types of cancer, including colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
Ironically, people have been slathering on chemical sunscreens for years because it was heavily promoted as reducing cancer. But studies are now showing that sunscreens can actually put you at higher risk for many cancers. That's because blocking the sun's rays greatly diminishes your vitamin-D production; and vitamin-D deficiency is what puts your health at risk.
While it's true that severe exposure to the sun--where you burn like a lobster at the beach--increases your risk of skin cancer, moderate sun exposure where you develop a steady tan helps your vitamin D production. If you think about it, severely damaging your skin by burning it is going to cause problems; developing a "healthy glow" by moderate sun intake is just that--healthy.
How can you ensure you're getting enough vitamin D? One good way to increase your vitamin D production is to exercise outdoors in sunlight--without sunscreen. Eat minimal-mercury wild ocean fish more often, which is a great source of vitamin D (and heart healthy omega-3).
You can also supplement your diet with high-quality products. Jigsaw Health's Calcium contains the active form of vitamin D-3 and boron, two ingredients essential for maximum calcium absorption.