Vitamin D Test

Vitamin D (Sunshine Vitamin)

Overview

Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and develop normally. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is one of the main building blocks of bone. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone diseases such as osteoporosis or rickets. Vitamin D also has a role in your nerve, muscle, and immune systems.

You can get vitamin D in three ways: through your skin, from your diet, and from supplements. Your body forms vitamin D naturally after exposure to sunlight. However, too much sun exposure can lead to skin aging and skin cancer. So many people try to get their vitamin D from other sources.

The amount of vitamin D your skin makes depends on many factors, including the time of day, season, latitude and your skin pigmentation. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, vitamin D production might decrease or be completely absent during the winter months. Sunscreen, while important, also can decrease vitamin D production.

Vitamin D has multiple roles in the body, helping to:

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Recommended intake of vitamin D

The amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age.

Vitamin D intake can be measured in two ways: in micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU).

One microgram of vitamin D is equal to 40 IU of vitamin D.

The recommended intakes of vitamin D throughout life were updated by the U.S. Institutes of Medicine (IOM) in 2010 and are currently set at:

Causes of Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:

You don’t consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time: This is likely if you follow a strict vegan diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.

You have dark skin: The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form: As people age, their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D: Certain medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.

You are obese: Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may include:

If Vitamin D deficiency continues for long periods of time it can result in:

Vitamin D food sources

Sunlight is the most common and efficient source of vitamin D. The richest food sources of vitamin D are fish oil and fatty fish. Here is a list of foods with good levels of vitamin D:

Risks with Overdosage

Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D to 600 international units (IU) for everyone ages 1-70, and raised it to 800 IU for adults older than age 70 to optimize bone health. Taken in appropriate doses, vitamin D is generally considered safe. Excessive consumption of vitamin D (hypervitaminosis D) can lead to over calcification of bones and hardening of blood vessels, kidney, lungs, and heart.

However, taking too much vitamin D can be harmful. The Upper Level limit recommended for vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has suggested that vitamin D toxicity is unlikely at daily intakes below 10,000 IU per day. Children age 9 years and older, adults, and pregnant and breast-feeding women who take more than 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D might experience:

 Interactions

 Possible interactions include:

Tests for Vitamin D Deficiency

The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.

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