Vitamin D is important for good overall health with its wide range of benefits. Its primary role is to increase the movement of calcium into the bloodstream by promoting the absorption of calcium from food. This is why it is essential in bone growt
h. Some other health benefits of having a healthy level of vitamin D are: decreased inflammation, decreased risk of cancer, decreased dental cavities, prevention and treatment of depression, and reduced risk of diseases like multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and heart disease.
What happens when vitamin D levels are low?
Seattle is at a latitude of 47° north of the equator, which sets up the population for widespread vitamin D insufficiency. Without vitamin D, bones become thin and brittle. Being vitamin D deficient also increases risk of cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Low blood levels of vitamin D also relate to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Multiple Sclerosis, which causes progressive nerve damage, has been linked to low vitamin D levels. Washington State has one of the highest multiple sclerosis rates in the nation, and it has been theorized that the low levels of sunlight in the winter contribute to this statistic.
How can you get vitamin D?
Vitamin D is often called “the sunshine vitamin” because our bodies synthesize it naturally through direct exposure to sunlight. This is the most natural way to get vitamin D and can happen very quickly, especially in the summer. How much vitamin D is produced from sunlight depends on time of day and where you live. You can also get vitamin D by taking supplements. This is a good way to get vitamin D if you can’t get enough sunlight or don’t want to expose your skin.
There are very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Some of these foods include fish with high fat content such as salmon, catfish and tuna. Milk and some cereals are usually fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common especially in northern populations like the Pacific Northwest, where solar radiation in the autumn and winter is much too small to maintain healthy levels.