Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, is normally produced by the body in response to exposure to sunlight. Foods including fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks are rich sources of this vitamin. Because of this, vegetarians often have a vitamin D deficiency. Many dairy products are now fortified with this vitamin to reduce the chances of vitamin deficiency. This vitamin is very important in the development of strong bones. Deficiency of this vitamin causes rickets characterized by brittle and soft bones and a deformed skeletal system. Many studies have shown that vitamin D is involved in protecting the body from a number of health issues.
Deficiency of vitamin D does not have very prominent symptoms initially. Although obvious symptoms are not present, health risks still exist.
The most common risks of a vitamin D deficiency include:
Vitamin D is also associated with the prevention of a number of conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and glucose intolerance. Moreover, vitamin D is involved in regulation of immune system in the body. It is also involved in maintaining a healthy weight. Deficiency of this vitamin may result in rheumatoid arthritis in women.
Some of the common causes of vitamin D deficiency include:
- The amount of vitamin D intake is lesser than the recommended amount. This is very common in a vegetarian diet.
- Exposure to sunlight is not enough for the body to produce enough of this vitamin. This is normally seen in those people who are in occupations where exposure to sunlight is very less.
- Pigments in dark skin reduce the ability of the body to produce vitamin D in the presence of sunlight.
- With age, the ability of the kidneys to convert vitamin D into its active form reduces considerably. This increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Certain health conditions like Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and celiac disease affects the absorption of vitamin D.
- Obesity results in low levels of this vitamin in the blood.