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Vitamin D focus: From osteoporosis to dementia

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That mighty little fat-soluble vitamin linked to ultraviolet rays from sunlight penetrating the skin, promoting calcium absorption, bone and cell growth and health, heart disease, cancer, schizophrenia and several other conditions/diseases has made its way back to the top of the news.

Usually we hear about Vitamin D when there are discussions related to bone weakness (osteoporosis), loss, pain and some inherited diseases. A common example of what we might read would include the Washington University Physicians page on Vitamin D – Essential for Osteoporosis Management.

We also hear about Vitamin D and Vitamin D deficiencies associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, bronchitis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), some tooth and gum diseases, some skin conditions (including vitiligo, scleroderma and psoriasis), some autoimmune diseases and rickets.

At the moment, our attention is being drawn to BBC News reports that link Vitamin D deficiencies to dementia in older adults. BBC News released a research team's findings that were published in the Neurology Journal. That team, led by Dr. David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, followed more than 1600 people over the age of 65 for six years. To read the story, click here.

Although the research can't say for sure - that having low levels of Vitamin D causes dementia - it certainly has created a buzz and will perhaps open the door for more studies.

What’s clear, regardless of the medical angle, and most would agree, Vitamin D:

  1. Promotes calcium absorption,
  2. Is needed for bone growth and remodeling; can help decrease or slow the rate of bones becoming thin and brittle,
  3. Can help decrease or slow the rate of other conditions and diseases (e.g., depression, heart-related, etc.),
  4. Can be absorbed through exposure to natural sunlight, by eating the flesh of fatty fish (tuna, salmon, and mackerel), consuming cheese, egg yolks, beef liver and some mushrooms, and/or by consuming foods fortified with vitamin D (e.g., milk, margarine, infant formula, orange juice, yogurt, etc.), and
  5. Can be absorbed by taking vitamin supplements and fish liver oils.

If you're not sure about the safe and recommended amounts of Vitamin D needed based on your age, overall health, etc., a medical professional will be able to assist you. To determine if you or someone you’re concerned about has a Vitamin D deficiency, click here to find a community health center in St. Louis.

For healthy & soothing experiences in St. Louis, click here.

In Missouri, it's estimated that more than 200,000 women and 61,000 men age 50 and over will have osteoporosis. To find out more: click here to visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services page on osteoporosis.

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