Low Vitamin D and Hot Flashes
A new study shines a light on the need for vitamin D. Research on a group of women older than 65 who had gained weight during the course of 4 1/2 years, showed that those women with low levels of the vitamin had steadily gained more weight. Researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, said their findings are important because most women aged 65 and older usually do not have sufficient levels of vitamin D.
The study followed over 4,600 women aged 65 and older for almost five years. They found that the women with low levels of vitamin D gained about two more pounds during that time than those with normal levels of the vitamin.
Even though the majority of the women were not trying to lose weight, during the study 27 percent of the women lost over 5 percent of their body weight and 12 percent gained over 5 percent of their body weight, the researchers said.
78 percent of the women exhibited low levels of vitamin D. These women usually weighed in at a few pounds more than the others at the beginning of the study. At the conclusion of the study, the women who gained weight were those with low levels of vitamin D. They had gained 18 1/2 pounds during the study. In contrast, the women with normal vitamin D levels gained just under 16 1/2 pounds during the same time.
Vitamin D is known as a steroid vitamin, which helps with your body’s ability to absorb and metabolize calcium and phosphorous. There are five vitamin D strains: vitamin D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5. The two that we humans need the most are vitamins D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol).
Called the "sunshine vitamin" because most of us get it from the sun, vitamin D helps maintain our bones and muscles, and keeps our central nervous system in check. However, too much it could be toxic, in rare cases causing nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Although the sun's rays are the primary source, vitamin D can also be found in milk products, fatty fish and fortified items such as cereals and juices. Even with all these sources, research has found that women, especially older women, aren't getting enough. As a result, supplements are often needed.
Vitamin D encourages the body's absorption of phosphorous and calcium from food in the intestines, as well as the reabsorption of calcium in the kidneys, which raises the flow of calcium in the bloodstream. Adequate calcium in the bloodstream is critical for good bone health. Vitamin D is also involved in maintaining many organ systems.
The researchers noted that prior research discovered that older women may need higher doses of vitamin D in order to keep their bones strong and prevent fractures.
We need more D
In the Archives of Internal Medicine, experts believe that up to 77 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. This is defined as having blood levels of less than 30 nanograms per milliliter.
Why is vitamin D deficiency so common, especially when vitamin D is one of the few vitamins our bodies can actually make? Sunlight converts a cholesterol-like substance naturally found in the skin into vitamin D. However, because of UV rays and skin cancer, spending too much extra time in the sun to make extra vitamin D would do you more harm than good. For your skin to make enough, you would need direct midday summer sunlight on most of your body for 15 minutes a day—risking serious sun damage.
Also, in most of the country, it's impossible to get enough D from sunlight between October and March, no matter how much time you spend outside. It’s also harder for people of color to produce vitamin D, as the melanin in dark skin decreases vitamin D production by up to 90 percent.
There's a simple way to get your D up without baking in the sun. It's not often that nutrition experts say it's better to get a vitamin from a pill than from food, but D is an exception.
Get your blood levels measured, especially if you have a family history of heart disease, cancer, or depression. If you are extremely low, your doctor might recommend higher doses of D.
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