Am I at risk for vitamin D deficiency?

Certain individuals may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient that your body needs for keeping bones strong, signaling for cell growth, immune functioning and decreasing inflammation. Vitamin D is a vitamin that we can not only eat, but also make within our own bodies. When ultraviolet rays from the sun hit your skin, it starts the process to produce vitamin D. Winter weather can keep us inside and decrease the amount of vitamin D our bodies make. To learn more about adding vitamin D into your diet, read about vitamin D rich foods in an article from Michigan State University Extension.

Cold weather during the winter might decrease vitamin D production for many of us, but there are also certain populations that are at risk for vitamin D deficiency during all times of the year. If you are in one of the following populations, check with your doctor about checking your vitamin D status to make sure that you are not deficient.

  • Older adults: Many older adults spend a lot of time indoors because decreased mobility makes it difficult to get around. If you are an older adult or care for someone who is, make it a point to go outside more often. Sun exposure to the skin should also be longer than people who are younger. As the skin ages, it cannot produce vitamin D as easily and therefor needs a greater length of exposure.
  • People with darker colored skin: People with darker skin color have more melanin in their skin, which reduces the skins ability to produce vitamin D. A greater length of sun exposure is needed to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D.
  • Breastfeeding infants: The amount of vitamin D in breast milk is dependent upon the mother’s vitamin D status. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supplementing breastfed babies to meet the recommended 400 IU’s (International Units) per day of vitamin D.
  • People with limited sun exposure: Many of us have demanding lives that require a lot of indoor time (even in the summer). Some people choose to cover their skin with clothes due to religious reasons and this might also decrease vitamin D production. Remember to supplement your diet if necessary because of limited sun exposure.
  • People with IBS: People with Irritable Bowel Disease (known as IBS) and other diseases that might cause issues with digesting fat, are at risk for vitamin D deficiency due to the fact that vitamin D is fat soluble. If you have a condition that inhibits fat absorption in your body, speak with your doctor about receiving enough vitamin D.
  • Obese individuals and/or those who have had weight loss surgery: People who are obese might require more vitamin D than those with a BMI less than 30 due to the way vitamin D is stored. People who have had gastric bypass surgery may also be at risk for low vitamin D because of where vitamin D enters the body. These individuals might have to have greater intakes to reach the same amount absorbed.

If you fall into one of these categories, make sure that you are consuming enough vitamin D to prevent any consequences that come with vitamin D deficiency.

MSU Extension offers nutrition education classes for adults and youth that include information on healthy nutrition options consumers can make. More information can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/nutrition.

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