Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Students, Get Your Vitamin D!

If you’re like me, you’ve been hearing more and more about Vitamin D lately.  So what’s the big deal about “the Sunshine Vitamin?”  Is it really worthy of all the hoopla? 

As it turns out, Vitamin D is a pretty big deal.  Vitamin D has long been recognized as a vital nutrient for bone health.  Our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium.  Without enough calcium, our bones, heart and nerves do not function at their best.  Lately, researchers have been finding more and more possible benefits of Vitamin D.  Studies are showing a link between cancer and Vitamin D deficiency, especially colon cancer.   Research suggests Vitamin D may play a role in the prevention and treatment of other diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes.  It is also thought to support immune function and affect inflammation.  Even psychiatric conditions such as depression may be linked to Vitamin D deficiency, although further research is needed. 

By now you may be wondering if you’re at risk for Vitamin D deficiency.   According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, the following groups may be at risk:

  • People who use sunscreen or cover up in the sun, or who don’t much spend time outdoors.
  • People with very dark skin
  • Obese or overweight people
  • Older people
  • People living at higher latitudes such as Boston or parts of Canada and Europe
  • People with certain medical conditions, especially conditions that affect the bowel such as inflammatory bowel disease or Celiac disease. 
  • People who are in institutions such as nursing homes, or are home-bound
  • People taking certain medications that interfere with Vitamin D absorption

If you find yourself in one of these groups, or if you’re just interested in boosting your Vitamin D, there are some good sources available:  tuna, salmon, fortified milk products and certain mushrooms, to name a few.  Limited exposure to sunlight will also boost your Vitamin D, however be aware that there is no official recommendation due to the link between UV exposure and skin cancer.  Vitamin D supplements are widely available and are easy to use to reach your recommended daily amount based on your age and life stage group. 

Many doctors are beginning to test levels of Vitamin D for patients with certain risk factors or conditions.  At this time, however, routine screening of all patients is not recommended. 

I’m sure we will see much more research in the coming months and years about this important nutrient.  In the meantime, there is more than enough evidence to convince me to pay attention to my Vitamin D intake.  

My name is Jennifer Blanck, RN, and I am always happy to hear from students and help in any way I can. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions regarding your requirements. My direct line is 913-588-2018.