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Fixin' Healthcare

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Lifestyle Chronicles - Vitamin D, We Hardly Know Ya

People don't eat protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; they eat foods that contain these things. Taking supplements might be beneficial if there is a deficiency. But, supplements don't satisfy appetite like food and it is difficult to determine how much of which supplements are needed. All in all, the best course of action is to eat a variety of whole (unprocessed) foods with special attention to vegetables, fruit, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy.

There is a special situation concerning vitamin D. It is a hormone with receptors in almost every cell in the body. Its functions go far beyond absorption of calcium to include how cells grow and proliferate. Vitamin D has been associated with bone health, muscle development, gum health and loss of teeth, diabetes and insulin resistance, multiple sclerosis and cancers of the prostate, pancreas, breast and colon. It is implicated in immunity and associated with resistance to influenza, as well as recovery from tuberculosis. And, this list might not be complete. Not bad for a day's work by a vitamin.

Another interesting aspect of vitamin D is how we get it and in what amounts. A person with light skin wearing a bathing suit and no sunscreen out in the summer sun for 30 minutes can generate 20,000 IU of vitamin D. Otherwise, most multiple vitamins contain 400 IU and 1/4 cup of canned red (sockeye) salmon has 480 IU.

Do you think my grandmother knew that cod liver oil contained omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D when she poured it down my throat? Probably not. She and other members of that generation knew kids who got vitamin D were sick less often.

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