Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and enables normal mineralization of bone. It’s also needed for bone growth and remodeling. Without sufficient Vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle or misshapen.
Nutrient deficiencies are usually the result of dietary inadequacy. In the case of Vitamin D deficiency, a lack of sun exposure is another contributing factor. With that being said, it’s no surprise that we Wisconsinites are often deficient. Other groups at risk for Vitamin D deficiency include:
- Breastfed infants
- Older adults
- People with limited sun exposure
- People with dark skin
- People with inflammatory bowel disease and other conditions causing inadequate fat absorption
- People who are obese or have undergone gastric bypass surgery
Diets that revolve around milk allergies, lactose intolerance, vegetarianism and veganism can often result in a deficiency. Deficiencies can also be caused by:
- The kidneys not converting Vitamin D to its active form
- Getting inadequate amounts of Vitamin D from the digestive tract
- Getting lower than recommended levels over a period of time
Currently, fortified foods provide most of the Vitamin D in the American diet. The best sources of Vitamin D in the diet are fatty fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel) and fish liver oils. Small amounts of Vitamin D are also found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. However, obtaining sufficient Vitamin D from natural food sources alone is difficult.
For some people, a combination of Vitamin D-fortified foods and sunlight exposure are necessary to meet daily requirements. Dietary supplements are another popular alternative to help meet daily needs.
If you are experiencing symptoms such as bone pain and muscle weakness, you may have inadequate Vitamin D levels. Talk to your health care provider about how to best increase your Vitamin D intake.