Vitamin D...Why is it important?

Vitamin D...Why is it important?

By Arunima Verma  on: 28 August 2017
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Recently I have come across many individuals with vitamin D deficiency and therefore felt the need to inform people in the simplest way to take necessary action. In recent years, there is renewed interest in this vitamin because new data suggest that its benefits are beyond just healthy bones. It has been linked to the treatment and pathogenesis of various disease such as cancer, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and diabetes. A lot of research is still under way to understand its link to these conditions. Nevertheless, one needs to be aware.

Undoubtedly, various types of cancer and infections will happen even under optimal vitamin D but the risk will be lower. So, in case anyone is diagnosed with deficiency or insufficiency, it should not be taken very lightly.

Vitamin D is a fat- soluble vitamin which is very important for various functions of the body and for strong and healthy bones. Most of this vitamin can be synthesized by the body with sufficient exposure to the sun since its precursor is present in our skin. A very small amount also comes from some of the foods that we eat. Vitamin D from food and skin synthesis is in an inactive form. It needs to be further converted to its active form in the liver and kidney.

Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency has now been recognized as a pandemic which means it is prevalent all over the world. Earlier vitamin D deficiency was detected because of either rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults. Now it can be detected by a simple blood test. Almost all general overall test packages in most laboratories will include this test. The test then determines whether the patient has vitamin deficiency or insufficiency even though there might be no evidence of any disease. According to available data, some of the reasons for this widespread deficiency or insufficiency could be not enough exposure to the sun, use of sunscreen (which for other health reasons is good but one need not put sunscreen all the time. Certain amount of exposure is important as mentioned below), digestive tract problems such as Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and improper nutrition.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency

Some of the signs of vitamin D deficiency are:

1. Children are often found to have walked late or prefer to sit for prolonged periods.

2. Adults can experience chronic muscle pains.

In severe deficiency:

1. One can see bowing of legs in children.

2. In adults, periosteal bone pain (Periosteum is the membrane which covers the surface of the bone) which is diagnosed by physical examination.

Toxicity

Under very rare circumstances vitamin D toxicity can occur. This can only happen due to improper supplementation wherein too much vitamin D has been taken orally. Some of the symptoms are dehydration, vomiting, kidney damage.

Some of the good sources of Vitamin D are as follows:

Image courtesy of (Fish: markuso; Milk: alex_ugalek; Egg: Photouten; Cheese: Serge Bertasius Photography) at freedigitalphotos.net

1. Fatty fish 

2. Foods fortified with Vitamin D such as some brands of milk and some cereals in India. Check the labels while buying. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has set up a panel to draft guidelines on fortification of many other food items so as to address deficiencies and malnutrition problems.

3. Cheese 

4. Egg yolk

5. Cod liver oil 

6. Wild mushrooms or those treated with UV light.

A reasonable amount of exposure to the sun helps in the synthesis of vitamin D in the body. According to studies, the optimal time to absorb sunlight is between 11:00 am- 2:00 pm. For people with light skin about 15-20 mins and for people with dark skin about 30-40 mins in the sun.

So, get yourself tested and if you are detected with deficiency or insufficiency then, proper supplementation, a wholesome diet, and a little bit of sunshine would restore the vitamin D levels in the body.

Please do not self diagnose and self medicate. Visit a doctor and a dietician/nutritionist for proper guidance.

 

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Drinking Water...How much is enough?
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It is known that about 60% of our body is made up of water. Water is an essential nutrient for almost all forms of life. We all know that it is very important for various functions of the body. It helps in regulating body temperature, digestion and distribution of nutrients, removing waste products from the body, blood circulation, keeps the tissues moist etc. It has been understood that as the body loses water, different functions are affected. At just 1 % loss, thermoregulation is impaired, and as water losses increase, thirst increases and then progressively, dry mouth, discomfort, loss of appetite, decrease in work capacity and therefore productivity. In higher water losses of about 6% there is numbness and tingling sensation in body extremities such as finger tips, toes. Higher losses can lead to a person collapsing and can sometimes be life threatening.( http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutwaterrequir.pdf ) So, the most important question which everybody wants to know, is how much water should one have. The answer to that is, there is no specific amount. There is no RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for water. This is because every person has a different weight, dietary practices, lifestyle, age. There is a common practice of recommending 8 glasses of an 8 ounce glass, also known as 8x8 rule. That is, 8 glasses of a glass with a capacity of about 237 ml. But how did this practice start? In an article by Heinz Valtin in the American Journal of physiology ( "Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day." Really? Is there scientific evidence for "8x8"? November 1, 2002 Vol 283 no. 5, R 993-R 1004) it has been mentioned that this might have its origin from 1945 when the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council wrote: A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters daily in most instances. An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods. Which means, apart from the water which is consumed, food also provides a certain amount of water. But there is no study which states that one should have 8 glasses of water. Therefore, many believe that one need not drink that much water. But the basic point about water consumption is, it is not the same for everyone. A lot depends upon the environmental conditions, activity level of the individual and the body weight. If one wants to be specific, there are daily water intake calculators online which take under consideration all these factors. In a country like India where the summers are very harsh, one must drink a lot of water. I have come across people who drink as much as 4 liters of water because of extreme climatic conditions. Image courtesy  of (winnond) at freedigitalphotos.net Although there is no study to back the 8x8 rule or 8-10 glasses rule, it is not a bad practice. As I mentioned, with the kind of climate that we face in our country (except the winter months when water requirements would be less), can we afford to have less water than this? I would think not. If one cannot bring themselves to drink as much, start with just half a glass at a time and gradually increase the amount. As mentioned above, by the time one feels thirst, the body has already lost 1%. So many experts believe waiting to feel thirsty is not a good way of judging water requirements. Water Toxicity Water toxicity is a condition which happens if a person has too much water in a short amount of time. According to American Chemistry Society, it takes about 6 liters of water to kill a 165 pounds (75 kg) human being. This condition mostly occurs in endurance sports when an athlete consumes too much water while running, water drinking contests or if a person is involved in activities which causes heavy sweating and to replenish that ends up consuming too much water in a short span of time. Too much water causes a drop in sodium levels leading to something called hyponatremia. Under normal circumstances, a person would rarely have water toxicity. So, drinking 8-10 glasses for a moderately active person will be beneficial. For anyone who wants a specific amount try the water intake calculators online. Below is a link to one of the online sites. http://www.medindia.net/patients/calculators/daily-water-requirement.asp
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