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Vitamin D screening is becoming routine

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By Dr Harris Stefanou

Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin”, helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate, which are essential for forming bones and teeth, the function of the heart, muscles, and nerves, and for cell and tissue repair.

Additionally, its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity.

Sun exposure is the main source of vitamin D.

The body produces the vitamin when the skin is exposed to direct ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun through a chemical reaction that converts a substance, 7-Dehydrocholesterol, into vitamin D3.

Vitamin D is naturally present in several foods.

Vitamin D can be found in two forms ­–vitamin D2, mainly found in plant-based food, and vitamin D3, which is made by the body and can be found in animal-based food.

Vitamin D deficiency affects about 40% of the European population, and it is estimated that 13% of Europeans are vitamin D deficient.

This occurs when people consume lower than recommended levels of vitamin D, have limited exposure to sunlight, kidneys have difficulty converting the vitamin to its active form, or the digestive system does not sufficiently absorb vitamin D from food.

Groups at higher risk for Vitamin D deficiency include breastfed infants, the elderly, and people with certain genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis, celiac or Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms may include regular sickness or infection, fatigue, bone and back pain, impaired wound healing, hair loss, and muscle pain.

If the deficiency continues for long periods, it may result in complications leading to severe health disorders.

In infants and children, vitamin D deficiency may cause rickets, a disease characterized by failure of bone tissue to become properly mineralized, resulting in soft, weak, deformed, and painful bones.

In teens and adults, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteomalacia, a disorder that causes bone pain and muscle weakness.

Vitamin D is critical for promoting bone health and preventing or treating osteoporosis.

Through its many roles, including glucose metabolism, vitamin D is currently being investigated for its positive impact on type 2 diabetes and weight loss, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, depression, and multiple sclerosis. Several studies are underway to evaluate the role of vitamin D and comprehend the crucial part it has on preserving good health.

Screening for vitamin D status is becoming a common part of routine laboratory blood testing. It is the best way to know if a person has sufficient levels of vitamin D.

The test is performed via a blood draw, and the sample is then analyzed in the laboratory to calculate the levels of vitamin D in the blood.

While low levels of Vitamin D affect bone health and growth, high levels of vitamin D can also be toxic as it can lead to over calcification of bones and the hardening of blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, and heart tissues.

Always consult your healthcare provider before and while taking supplements.

Vitamin D is essential for good health.

Individuals should meet and maintain their vitamin D needs at an acceptable level through a healthy diet and by spending time in the sun ― which should be done with caution as sun exposure is a risk factor for developing skin cancer.

Taking vitamin D supplements or having a higher risk for vitamin D insufficiency requires regular monitoring of vitamin D levels.

By researching and getting information from healthcare professionals regarding vitamin D and its significant role in good health, individuals may find a balance and maintain normal vitamin D levels.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin D depends on the person’s age.

Always consult with your healthcare provider regarding your daily intake of vitamin D.

Dr Harris Stefanou, Manager of the Clinical Laboratories NIPD Genetics

The content is intended only for informational purposes and not medical advice