From Cancer to Heart Disease: 6 Side Effects of a Vitamin D Deficiency

03/13/2014

Vitamin d deficient The body should naturally produce vitamin D when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin, but in the winter it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere.

But don’t fret, you can still get ample vitamin D from the food you eat and it’s worth it because of the risks to your health if you're continually deficient. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Aging Bones

A vitamin D deficiency is blamed for an increased risk of aging bones and fracture. A study in the journal Science Translational Medicine showed that not getting enough of the nutrient caused premature bone breakage. 

2. Rickets

Rickets is the softening of bones in children and it’s become more common in today's kids. Parents are constantly applying high SPF and kids just don’t play outside as much as they once did. 

3. Heart Disease

When sun hits the skin, it causes an increase in nitric oxide, a chemical linked to blood flow. Researchers found that when sunlight hits the skin the compound is released in blood vessels, which causes the blood pressure to drop. People living in Northern European countries like Scotland were actually more likely to die as a result of heart disease because they don't get enough sunlight.

4. Depression

Research results reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The lower the vitamin D levels, the higher the risk of depression. And then there's seasonal affective disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, "SAD is a mood disorder characterized by the predictable onset of depression in the fall/winter months, with spontaneous remissions in the spring/summer period."

5. Diabetes 

NIH has also studied the link between vitamin D deficiency and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. According to their research:

“Past observational studies have suggested that higher levels of vitamin D may be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes, but until this large, randomized and controlled clinical trial is complete, we won’t know if taking vitamin D supplements lowers the risk of diabetes,” said Anastassios G. Pittas, M.D., the study’s principal investigator at Tufts Medical Center, Boston.

6. Cancer 

Research in its early stages has also shown that incidence and death rates for certain cancers were lower among individuals living in southern latitudes, where levels of sunlight exposure are relatively high, than among those living at northern latitudes. 

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Photo: Credit both: iStock/Thinkstock

Read More: 8 Ways to Get Ample Vitamin D in the Winter 


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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