Understanding Vitamin D

It is only within the last five years that we have started to understand just how important vitamin D is for preventing and treating chronic diseases.

Vitamin D is actually a hormone and its role in health has been widely undervalued. The role it plays in both obesity and depression has been more considered recently. Depression and obesity both have inflammation as a core issue and this is where vitamin D’s work is important.

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Obesity and Vitamin D.

People carrying excess body fat tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D. The reason for this isn’t entirely understood but it is thought that the fat cells absorb most of the vitamin D leaving it unavailable to be utilised by the rest of the body.

As fat cells increase in number the tendency to have lower vitamin D levels also increases. This leaves an obese individual more likely to struggle with inflammatory illnesses. Consequently, the raised inflammatory markers also make it difficult to lose weight.

Low vitamin D levels will also impact on thyroid hormone production and increase the possibility of sleep disorders, both of which will affect your weight. It becomes a catch-22 situation.

Another consequence of low vitamin D levels is the tendency to depression. One study found that patients who were obese and had vitamin D deficiency had higher levels of depression.

Depression and inflammation

Depression has typically been thought of as a disease of neurotransmitter deficiency but recent advances in research have suggested that depression is a result of inflammation of the brain. Vitamin D binds to DNA and activates the MKP-1 gene which interrupts the inflammatory cascade a vital step in preventing a number of chronic illnesses but also valuable in preventing depression.

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Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread. Those carrying more body fat or with darker skin will have higher requirements.  It is most likely that our commitment to using sunscreen and reduced time outdoors is impacting out vitamin D levels in a big way. Some vitamin D can be found in foods – oily fish, butter, etc. But these amounts are minimal compared to what we can get from exposing our bodies to the UVB rays in sunshine , without sunscreen, at the right time of day.

The winter months

Even if you have adequate levels of vitamin D, as Autumn draws in it is most likely that those stores will be low by the time December or January arrive.  The onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is likely linked to low vitamin D levels at this time of year. Optimal levels are between 60 and 70 ng/ml, but 40 mg/ml has long been accepted as sufficient. However 40 mg/ml is too low and wouldn’t see you through the winter months in good health.

Vitamin D Testing

It is relatively simple and inexpensive to get your vitamin D levels tested. You can ask your GP to run the test for you or you can order a blood spot test through me for less than £50. Testing now could make all the difference to your mental wellness in the approaching winter months.

Read more from Expert Sarah Hanratty

 

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