Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unintended Consequences

It happens all too often. Science and results from studies will lead to big campaigns against the latest lifestyle or health-related "crisis" and the public obediently follows directions and changes their diets and habits accordingly. But the consequences that follow are often not the ones that were expected. A case in point is Vitamin D. A lack of Vitamin D has been found to result in quite a few unwanted conditions. It's not just about avoiding rickets any more. Low levels of this fat-soluble nutrient have been associated with osteoporosis, bone fractures, some cancers and autoimmune diseases and a strong link has been found between Vitamin D deficiency and significant levels of depression, especially in the older adult demographic. It has been suggested that by diligently avoiding exposure to sunlight in order to prevent skin cancer, we have ended up with a widespread population who are vitamin D deficient.

I'm not suggesting that we toss all of our sunscreen in the trash. Skin cancer is a very real problem and we should take appropriate measures to avoid it. But as little as 15 minutes exposure to unprotected skin on your face, arms and/or legs 3 times a week can boost your body's ability to convert that sunshine into much-needed Vitamin D. That, in addition to a diet that includes foods fortified with that nutrient can provide enough to ward off the previously mentioned conditions and diseases. For those who take calcium supplements to keep their bones strong and healthy, it's important to take Vitamin D supplements to facilitate absorption of the calcium by the bones. You have to be careful, though, with supplements not to overdo the Vitamin D. There is a risk of Vitamin D toxicity which can result in nausea, confusion and weight loss among other things but the only risk of reaching dangerous levels that would lead to toxicity is through overconsumption of supplements. A few short exposure to sunlight a week, a diet that includes Omega-3 fats found in some fish and foods that have been fortified with the vitamin such as milk, some cereals and breads and a trusted supplement that combines calcium and vitamin D in proper balance like this one can ensure that you're getting the optimal amount that will help you stay healthy both physically and mentally.

One expert
says that in addition to a good diet, “Many people may need to consider supplements, especially in winter. And one thing we would say is, don’t be afraid of getting at least a little sunshine. It’s good for you.”

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