The importance of vitamin D

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Most people get vitamin D from sunlight and in fortified foods. Unlike our ancestors who worked outside in the fields, we spend more time indoors under artificial light. When we're outside, we're slathered in sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun, which also inhibits our ability to absorb vitamin D. As we get older and our skin gets thinner, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to convert sunlight to vitamin D effectively. Add in poor diets and the fact that only a few foods, mostly animal based, contain natural vitamin D, and it's no wonder so many people have a vitamin D deficiency.

While we still don't understand the entire impact of vitamin D and how it works in the body, it's essential for absorption of calcium, which helps prevent bone loss, and ultimately bone fractures, and also gives us muscle energy and strength. Vitamin D also helps us lose weight - obese people often have low levels of vitamin D. Low levels can cause symptoms that mimic fibromyalgia, with muscle aches and low energy, impaired immune function, and other debilitating symptoms. Recent studies have also found a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and uterine fibroid tumors.

Vitamin D is also an important antioxidant. There is a wealth of great data to support its role in preventing several types of cancers including breast, prostate and colon. Low levels of vitamin D are also linked to depression and mood disorders.

Clearly, vitamin D plays a big role in our health, so it's important to make sure we're getting enough. Happily, vitamin D can be easily supplemented. Adults can take a vitamin D supplement of 5-10,000IU a day, or up to 50,000IU each week.

Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels - a good level is 60-80 dl/mg. If you're low, add a quality vitamin D3 supplement to your daily routine, get outside more often, and eat a diet rich in whole foods, including fatty fish like mackerel or sardines, fortified diary and leafy vegetables.  You'll feel better and help protect your body from disease.

Dr. Angela DeRosa is a nationally recognized expert in the field of Internal Medicine and Women's Health. DeRosa Medical has locations in Scottsdale, Sedona and Chandler. For more information, call 480-619-4097 or visit