Most visible disease caused by vitamin D deficiency is Rickets.
Rickets in children is caused by the bones being softened from a deficiency in vitamin D. This condition is called osteomalacia and because vitamin D is required for the body to efficiently metabolize the calcium needed that gives bone tissue its strength.
Adults can also suffer from osteomalacia from a lack of vitamin D.
Vitamin D treatment
In the 17th century rickets was a big problem but during the latter part of the 19th century it was discovered that 1-3teaspoons of cod liver oil could reverse rickets.
Symptoms of rickets
It isn’t until rickets becomes severe that there will be any complaints of pain. Usually in the legs and sometimes accompanied with cramping in the muscles. In some cases there have been reports of difficulties in breathing and seizures.
The physical signs of rickets are under-developed muscles, concave chest, bowed or curved legs (see picture) and the teeth will also develop poorly.
Lack of vitamin D
The causes of the lack of vitamin D resulting in Rickets is varied and can begin with breastfeeding. Human milk is directly reliant on the mothers own vitamin D levels. If the mother is not supplementing with adequate amounts of vitamin D then the baby will also lack vitamin D.
People who suffer from a vitamin D deficiency may be night shift workers, live in areas that have little sunlight, like the northern parts of the country. Also people who live in areas with heavy pollution are at risk. This is because sunlight is required for humans to produce vitamin D.
Lack of dietary vitamin D can also be attributed to vitamin D deficiency.
Foods with vitamin D
To obtain adequate amounts of vitamin D from food sources is difficult as there are only a few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
Fatty fish like swordfish, salmon, sardines, mackerel and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Just as a comparison Swordfish has 566 IU’s per serving (3oz) and cod liver oil has 1360 IU’s (1 tablespoon)
Other supply’s of natural vitamin D are goats milk, some types of mushrooms (like shiitake), cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver.
In the 1930’s milk was first fortified with vitamin D and became the primary reason why the occurrence of rickets is under control in North America. Other fortified foods are breakfast cereals, dairy products, and even dairy substitutes like margarine.
Just go here to see a chart with the RDA for vitamin D (RDA = recommended daily allowance) .
Health risks of vitamin D deficiency
Considered to be the first study to clearly identify the link between cognitive decline and low vitamin D levels. From the University of Exeter, researchers produced a 6 year study that showed over 850 senior adults (age 65+) with low levels of vitamin D had a 60 % greater likelihood of showing signs of dementia and a 31 % greater chance in developing new cognitive problems.
Another age-related consideration for vitamin D deficiency is the fact that skin is less efficient at producing vitamin D as it ages.
Similar to osteomalacia, osteoporosis is also blamed on inadequate calcium. Since a lack of vitamin D can contribute to the bodies inability to absorb calcium, osteoporosis can be worsened by low vitamin D levels.
Fibromyalgia and Depression
Depression may be another risk of lack of vitamin D. People who suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder ) have been treated with ‘light therapy’ which does allow for the skin to produce vitamin D. Experiments done at The Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland – where persons with SAD supplemented their diets with vitamin D showed significant improvements.
Weight loss and vitamin D
University of Minnesota researcher Shalamar Sibley, M.D., have found a correlation between weight loss and levels of vitamin D. Their research shows that people who were attempting to lose weight using low-caloric intake dieting methods were able to lose more weight (especially off their belly’s) when they had higher amounts of vitamin D in their bodies.
According to the study the results indicated that vitamin D levels could actually predict weight loss and more the participants lost about 1/2 lb more for every unit increase of the precursor type of vitamin D. PLUS they were able to predict a greater loss of belly fat.
These results show that there is a possible link to vitamin D and weight loss.
As well in other studies, obese adolescents were shown to have lower levels of vitamin D than their slimmer schoolmates.
there have been some trial studies showing a link between pain relief and vitamin D supplementation for people suffering from chronic pain according to the Mayo Clinic.
Vitamin D deficiency can cause a reduction in the effectiveness of your immune system. Adequate vitamin D levels can keep the occurrence of respiratory infection from happening. This is especially important during cold and flu season since this happens during the darker months when people are not getting enough natural sunlight to produce vitamin D.
There has also been a great deal of research showing promises in the correlation between cancer and vitamin D deficiency.