When it comes to good health, people depend on vitamins. Dubbed the "sunshine vitamin" because it is made by the body when exposed to the sun, vitamin D is important to the health in many ways. It aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, it helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, and it offers protection against the development of certain types of cancer, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Despite the many benefits of vitamin D, roughly 75 percent of American teens and adults have deficient levels. Five signs and symptoms can help determine whether you may have a vitamin D deficiency.
1. Darker Skin
According to research, vitamin D deficiency is more widespread among people with darker skin because pigmentation in the skin works like a natural sunscreen. Therefore, people with darker skin need to spend more time in the sun than people with lighter skin to maintain healthy levels.
2. Age of 50 Years or Greater
People age 50 and over tend to spend less time outdoors than younger people, which contributes to vitamin D deficiency in this age group. In addition, aging skin makes less vitamin D when exposed to the sun, and the kidneys aren't as efficient in converting vitamin D into a usable form.
3. Depressed Mood
A study in 2006 examined how vitamin D levels affected the mood of 80 elderly patients. Those with the worst vitamin D deficiency were 11 times more likely to be depressed than patients with normal vitamin D levels. Experts believe this effect may have to do with serotonin, a hormone in the brain associated with mood. Research shows that serotonin levels rise with greater exposure to sunlight and fall when exposure lessens.
Related: Three Hormonal Causes of Depression
4. Excessive Body Weight
Studies have found that body fat collects vitamin D and keeps it from entering the bloodstream. Research published in the International Journal of Obesity also showed that excessive body fat may inhibit the body's ability to use vitamin D effectively.
5. Gastrointestinal Issues
Gastrointestinal conditions like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity can affect the body's absorption of fat. Because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, people with these conditions often have lower vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for good health. While sunlight offers the best source, people can also obtain this valuable nutrient through certain foods or vitamin D supplements. Good food sources include wild-caught salmon, mackerel, sardines, or vitamin D-fortified milk, yogurt, cereal, or juice. When it comes to daily supplements, many experts suggest 600 to 800 IU for children and adults, but others recommend 1000 IU.