Benefits of Vitamin D

March 07, 2011

Blog written by Laboratory Staff Nisha

Recent studies have linked children who were conceived in the winter with an increased rate of multiple sclerosis (MS). It has also been noted that the highest rates of MS occurs in northern countries such as Scotland and England. This is because women who are pregnant in the winter months do not get as much sun exposure as those pregnant in the summer, and northern European countries generally have shorter daylight hours in the winter in comparison to other countries. Decreased levels of Vitamin D have been seen in children who have MS, though studies have not yet proven that a vitamin D deficiency is the cause for MS.

Vitamin D production is triggered when the skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun. After it is produced by the body, the vitamin is converted to calcidiol in the liver, and then calcitriol in the kidney. It serves to increase calcium absorption in gut, which is important for bone growth and prevention of osteoporosis. Now, I understand why milk is often fortified with Vitamin D. Vitamin D is also important to the immune system function, as well as cell growth and neuromuscular function. Not many foods have naturally occurring vitamin D, so it is easy to become deficient in the vitamin.

It seems as though the best way to get a good dose of natural vitamin D is through sun bathing. Some researchers say that sun exposure up to 30 minutes a day from 10am to 3pm, twice a week, is sufficient to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D. One issue with this is the fact that sunscreens will prevent the production of vitamin D, because they protect against UV rays. Indoor sunbathing won’t work either, since glass protects against these rays as well. So how are we to decide which is the lesser of two evils– skin cancer or multiple sclerosis? Happily, there is a solution – Vitamin D supplements. After surviving these long winter months, I definitely will be basking in sunshine any chance I can get this spring, but with vitamin D supplements at least we all can – and should – do it safely.

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