Vitamin D is an essential building block of health and is most commonly gotten through sun exposure. However, in a world where we often spend little time outside, sun exposure and subsequently Vitamin D exposure has become a problem. In a recent study in the Journal of Neurology, researchers found that there was a 53% greater risk of dementia and a 70% greater risk of Alzheimer's Disease with a moderate Vitamin D deficiency. The importance of maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin D is not just important to our brain health. Vitamin D helps us do the following:
- Absorb Calcium
- Absorb other minerals like phosphorus
- Maintain optimal Calcium levels
- Limit Calcium loss through urine
- Maintain the healthy functioning of the muscles, heart, brain, pancreas, thyroid and immune system
- Regulate insulin production
There are 2 types of Vitamin D, D2 and D3. Studies have shown D3 to be more effective. If we are not getting Vitamin D in adequate doses through sun exposure then how are we to maintain appropriate levels? Vitamin D can be obtained in fatty fish and fish liver oil but most of us get our Vitamin D through fortified foods like orange juice, soy milk and some cereals. Children ages 0-1 require 400 IU/day, those 2-70 require 600 IU/day and those 71 and older require 800 IU/day. If you are unsure if you have enough Vitamin D you can do a quick at home test by placing your thumb on your sternum or breast bone with moderate pressure. If this hurts then you may want to have your doctor test your Vitamin D levels. If you have inadequate amounts of Vitmain D then supplementation with a plant-based supplement may be necessary or you can simply go outside for 20 minutes a day and get some fresh air!