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Monday, June 10, 2013
Vitamin D - Make it Personal
by Erica Elaine Wilson 

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing an article about Vitamin D. My answer is rather simple. It’s personal. Some of the most interesting articles I’ve read were written by those who shared a personal story. The author shared a personal experience and how it may have changed his/her perspective or outlook. A personal perspective may increase knowledge or just leave the reader with food for thought. It is my hope the following is found to be an interesting and healthy reminder.

Like most of you, I’m an aquatic fitness professional teaching aqua fitness classes on a consistent basis. I think it’s safe to say that we do our best to live healthy lifestyles; after all, it’s what we encourage our students to achieve. Plus, we are continually challenged to remain educated on various subjects related to health and fitness. Our goals should be to stay abreast of industry trends, follow current research and understand how the body responds to exercise within the aquatic and land environments.

In 2011, I experienced pain in my knees and the back of my neck. I thought perhaps my posture was compromised due to sitting for long periods of time at work or in the car. When the discomfort became more intense than usual, it was time to see my primary care physician. Test results revealed that I was deficient in vitamin D. A normal range is between 30 and 100; my number was 25 and spiraling downward. I had stopped taking a vitamin C & D supplement thinking weight training or weight-bearing exercises was enough. So I was stunned to find out the issues I was having all stemmed from deficiency in vitamin D. How can having inadequate levels of vitamin D be so detrimental to one’s health?

Nutrient deficiencies are usually the result of dietary inadequacy, impaired absorption and use, increased requirement, or increased excretion. Vitamin D deficiency can occur when the intake is lower than recommended levels over time, exposure to sunlight is limited, the kidneys cannot convert vitamin D serum levels to its active form, or absorption of vitamin D from the digestive tract is inadequate. Vitamin D-deficient diets are associated with milk allergy, lactose intolerance, and veganism.

Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the stomach and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone and prevent the presence of low serum calcium in the blood. It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling by cells. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen. Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children (bow legs) and osteomalacia (a weakening of the bones due to problems with bone formation or the bone building process) in adults. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis (a weakening of living bone that has already been formed and is being remodeled). Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced from within an organ (or part) when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.

Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D in these foods is primarily in the form of vitamin D3. Some mushrooms provide vitamin D2 in variable amounts. Mushrooms with enhanced levels of vitamin D2 from being exposed to ultraviolet light under controlled conditions are also available.

Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are generally not fortified. Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and other food products. Both the United States and Canada mandate the fortification of infant formula with vitamin D. Food labels, however, are not required to list vitamin D content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient.

Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. Season, time of day, length of day, cloud cover, smog, skin melanin content, and sunscreen are among the factors that affect UV radiation exposure and vitamin D synthesis. Exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D and sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or more appear to block vitamin D-producing UV rays, although people generally do not apply sufficient amounts, cover all skin exposed to the sun, or reapply sunscreen regularly. Therefore, skin likely synthesizes some vitamin D even when it is protected by sunscreen as typically applied.
The amount of sun exposure needed to maintain adequate vitamin D levels make it difficult to provide general guidelines. It’s been suggested by some researchers, that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis and that the moderate use of commercial tanning beds that emit 2%–6% UVB radiation is also effective. Individuals with limited sun exposure need to include good sources of vitamin D in their diet or take a supplement to achieve recommended levels of intake. Despite the importance of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, it is important to limit exposure of skin to sunlight and UV radiation from tanning beds to reduce cancer risks.

In all areas pertaining to health and wellness, it is important to consult with the experts. Before adding a vitamin or any supplement to your diet, be sure to consult with your primary care giver or a registered dietician. For me, my doctor recommended a daily vitamin D supplement – so I made it personal and don’t miss a day!

Resources Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD-Family Medicine & Rhonda O’Brien, MS, RD, CDE-Certified Diabetes Educator. Last Revised, May 4, 2011. Author: Healthwise Staff.

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The Office of Dietary Supplements provides information that should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health. Any mention in this publication of a specific brand name is not an endorsement of the product.

Healthwise: This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of the information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions. To learn more visit
Erica Elaine Wilson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Administration with a minor in Physical Education from Delaware State University. In addition to having over 29 years of Federal service, Erica has been involved in the fitness industry consistently for over 20 years - dedicating her lifestyle to staying healthy and fit while helping others achieve the same goal! She is a member of Triple Delight Aquatics, LLC, offering AEA and AFAA approved continuing education workshops and master classes. Erica also presents at the AEA International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC) and writes health/fitness related articles for AKWA magazine. Contact Erica at  or visit the Triple Delight Aquatics website at

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