The Role of Vitamin D
Once, Vitamin D was thought to be useful only for bone conditions. In fact, the entire surgical speciality of orthopaedics was named after straightening (“ortho” = straight) the bones of children (“paedic” = relating to children) due to Rickets – the classic Vitamin D deficiency in children that causes bowing of the legs. In adults, vitamin D deficiency lead to a condition called .
The symptoms of osteomalacia can be quite subtle, and include:
Today we know much more. Vitamin D is either absorbed from foods and supplements, or is produced in the body by a chemical reaction when the skin is exposed to ultraviolet sunlight. This vitamin D, regardless of where it comes from, must be converted to an “active” form in the body. These active forms are listed in the test details below. However we get it, vitamin D is needed by our bodies.
Vitamin D is needed by our bodies:
- to help it absorb calcium from the gut
Who Should Get the Vitamin D Test?
It can be really difficult to get enough vitamin D from natural food alone. Of course, vitamin D and calcium are important in osteoporosis, but there is now strong and convincing evidence that vitamin D might play a role in the prevention and treatment several medical conditions. If you have any of these problems, knowing your vitamin D status, and making a rational choice to supplement could make a significant difference to your health.
You are more likely to need the test if you:
Live in northern latitudes!
Put simply, the further you are from the equator, the lower your levels are likely to be.
If you breastfeed
In most cases, Vitamin D requirements cannot be met by human milk alone. However, it is related to the mother’s vitamin D status meaning that mothers who supplement with high doses may provide protection.
Are older (over 50-years-old)
There are a number of reasons why you may be at an increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency: (1) your skin cannot synthesize vitamin D as efficiently, (2) you may spend more time indoors, and (3) you may have inadequate intakes. It is estimated that over half of the hip fractures in the elderly could be prevented by proper supplementation. If you are older and want to keep fit, your risk of fracture is even higher, making it even more important that you know your status.
Don’t get much sun exposure
If you spend most of the daylight hours indoors or wear long robes and head coverings for religious or personal reasons it is unlikely that you will obtain adequate vitamin D from sunlight. We currently do not know the impact of sunscreen use.
Have dark skin
If you are dark-skinned you have more of the pigment melanin, which reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. Reports consistently show lower serum vitamin D levels in persons identified as black compared with those identified as white.
Have inflammatory bowel disease or any other conditions causing fat malabsorption
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble vitamin, its needs the body to be able to absorb dietary fat. If you who have a reduced ability to absorb dietary fat, you might require vitamin D supplementation. Conditions include: liver disease, cystic fibrosis, coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Are obese or have had a gastric bypass
Interestingly, if you are overweight in the medically obese range (which is not actually that high), you are more likely to have lower levels of vitamin D. It appears that large amounts of body-fat “steal” the vitamin and reduce its release into the circulation.
Any steroids, including the corticosteroid prednisone prescribed to reduce inflammation, can reduce calcium absorption and therefore impair vitamin D metabolism. This is one of the reasons why people taking steroids have an increased risk of bone-loss and osteoporosis. Vitamin D plus calcium supplementation can help.
This is a commonly prescribed weight loss drug. Because it reduces fat absorption, it reduces the dietary intake of all fat-soluble vitamins.
This is a cholesterol-lowering drug. Because it reduces fat absorption, it reduces the dietary intake of all fat soluble vitamins.
Use phenobarbital or phenytoin
Both these medications are used to prevent and control epileptic seizures. However, they force the liver to turn more vitamin D into inactive compounds and also reduce calcium absorption.
What Is Tested In The Vitamin D Test?
What Will the Test Involve?
This test involves taking a small blood sample from a vein. We describe the process here .
What Could Abnormal Results Mean?*
On its own, no test can provide a definitive diagnosis, and can only provide important “clues” about possible problems. Normal results cannot entirely exclude disease: for example, normal results can exist in patients with serious disease, and occasionally, abnormal results can arise without any health problems. The normal ranges of tests can also vary between different laboratories, so it is not always possible to compare results directly.
At Alpha Healthlabs, we believe in giving you an unparalleled and ethically sound service. Therefore, the meaning of all your results will be explained and we will suggest the most appropriate next course of action. It is important that you do not initiate any action based on these results without first consulting your General Practitioner.
Common Issues Raised by This Test
The common issues raised by this test include, but are not limited to:
Levels of Vitamin D are higher in the summer, and lower in the winter, due to differing sunlight levels.
Low levels can be associated with numerous issues ranging from low calcium to depression, and poor thyroid hormone function. Increasing your exposure to natural light and increasing your dietary intake can help.
How can I increase my levels?
Sources of vitamin D include fortified milk and foods, supplements, and sunlight exposure. However, sunlight exposure can cause skin cancer and excess exposure should be avoided.