It Starts With You
Delight Gluten Free|September/October 2019
How our vitamin D-deficient country can turn its health around.
Michael A. Miller

The jubilant colors of the holidays have dissipated beneath a slate-colored sky. As you return to your usual grind, you might feel robbed of your sunny disposition—but not because of that looming deadline—you’ve been robbed of actual sunshine. Odds are, you are deficient in vitamin D, and that is certainly something to be sad about.

You’re not alone. More than 66 million Americans are deficient in vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health considers blood (serum) levels of just 12 ng/ml to indicate deficiency and 20 ng/ml to be adequate, but either amount falls way short of its potential benefits.

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all, but a hormone that the body makes through a chemical process triggered by UVB light contacting the skin. It is converted by the liver and then by the kidneys into the usable version of vitamin D, which supports strong bones and teeth by helping the body absorb and distribute calcium and phosphorus. Serving as calcium’s usher, vitamin D battles soft bones (osteomalacia), thinning bones (osteoporosis), and weakening bones (rickets). But to many researchers and medical practitioners, this is old news—about 80 years old, according to Current Rheumatology Reports. Instead, researchers are now buzzing about vitamin D’s potential extra-skeletal benefits.

Vitamin D receptors exist in almost all your cells and organs, suggesting disease-fighting functions far beyond bone health. Recent research shows an association between low vitamin D levels and increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, depression, immune dysfunction, infectious and autoimmune diseases, and even certain types of cancer. Vitamin D is much more than a humble bone builder, and the nationally recommended 20 ng/ml simply isn’t enough.

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