When 25 year old Shabana, complained of lower back ache continuously, several doctors advised her to start exercising and lose weight. She followed their advice diligently but continued to be in pain… until tests revealed her vitamin D levels.”Most patients with lower back pain complaints have Vitamin D deficiency,” says a senior orthopedic surgeon in the city.
Made in Sunlight
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. A fat-soluble nutrient needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus, and therefore to make bones strong. People do not make their own: We need sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. The vitamin is also found in oily fish and in a few other foods, including milk, which is fortified with the vitamin.
Because many people have little exposure to sunlight, especially those living in northern climates in winter, some investigators became concerned more than a decade ago that large swaths of the population were not getting enough vitamin D.
Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.
Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can also mean you have a vitamin D deficiency. However, for many people, the symptoms are subtle. Yet, even without symptoms, too little vitamin D can pose health risks. Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:
- Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.
Yet there are two sides to every story and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.
Millions of people are popping supplements in the belief that vitamin D can help turn back depression, fatigue, muscle weakness, even heart disease or cancer. So firm is this belief that vitamin D has become popular even among people with no particular medical complaints or disease risks. And they are being tested for vitamin D “deficiency” in ever greater numbers.
A large number of healthy people think they have a deficiency, and some are taking supplemental doses so high they can be dangerous, causing poor appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Vitamin D overdoses also can lead to weakness, frequent urination and kidney problems.
A lot of clinicians are acting like there is a pandemic of vitamin D deficiency, that gives them justification to screen everyone and get everyone well above what the Institute of Medicine recommends.And even if your doctor recommends supplementation for you, you should beware when reading the labels.
In an era of fact-checking and “alternative facts,” there are reasons for growing alarm about the disbelief of scientific findings across a wide range of professional domains because it seems to reflect a much broader drop in the credibility of academics and scientists.