Lorraine: Dr Amir says spine could shrink if deficient in vitamin D
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Ultraviolet B (UVB) energy emitted from the sun is key to convert a chemical in the skin into vitamin D3; this is then carried to the liver and kidneys to be transformed into active vitamin D. Experts at Harvard Medical School warned that a lack of the sunshine vitamin can lead to osteomalacia and osteoporosis. This is because vitamin D increases intestinal absorption of calcium – a mineral needed for strong bones.
Dietician Sophie Medlin – who recommends daily vitamin D supplementation in autumn and winter – explained further.
“Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut, allowing our bones to be mineralised properly,” she said.
“Because calcium is also essential to muscle contraction, vitamin D is also essential for the normal functioning of muscles and other tissues.
“Vitamin D also helps to reduce inflammation in the body and modulates cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function.”
Medlin added: “Many tissues in the body have vitamin D receptors indicating that is has a vital role in many parts of the body.”
If you are lacking adequate supplies of the sunshine vitamin, the bones will become soft.
As a result, this can lead to bone deformities, spasms, and dental issues.
“Early signs of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, aches and cramps and mood changes like depression,” said Medlin.
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Am I at risk?
“Everyone in the UK is considered to be at risk of vitamin D deficiency in the winter but some groups are at higher risk,” Medlin answered.
As the amount of melanin in the skin affects how much vitamin D can be absorbed from the sun, the darker your skin, the higher the risk of deficiency.
Those who stay indoors more often than not are also at higher risk of lacking adequate supplies of the sunshine vitamin.
“Some medical conditions increase our risk of vitamin D deficiency including cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease,” added Medlin.
Other risk factors include undergoing weight loss surgery, due to malabsorption issues, or being overweight.
This is because fat cells hold onto vitamin D, making it less available for the body to use.
In addition, people with kidney or liver disease are also at increased risk of a vitamin D deficiency.
To counteract the risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency, Medlin suggests taking a vitamin D supplement “with something that contains fat”.
She explained: “Fat is essential for the absorption of vitamin D, [so] aim to take your supplement with meals or a milky drink.”
Everybody in the UK should take 10mcg of vitamin D supplementation daily.
However, do not believe that more is always better; if you exceed the upper limit, it can lead to feelings of nausea.
Other signs you have taken too much include vomiting, muscle weakness, and loss of appetite.
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