Vitamin D promises to be the most discussed supplement of the decade. While studies continue to refine optimal blood levels and recommended intakes, a huge part of the population—from robust newborns to the frail elderly, and others in between—remains deficient in this nutrient.
If the findings of existing clinical trials hold up, the potential consequences of this deficiency are likely to go far beyond inadequate bone development and excessive bone loss that can result in falls and fractures. Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, has receptors for vitamin D, meaning that this nutrient is needed at proper levels for these tissues to function well.
Studies indicate that the effects of a vitamin D deficiency include a risk of developing cancers of the colon, breast and prostate; high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease; osteoarthritis; and immune-system abnormalities that can result in infections and autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Most people in the modern world have lifestyles that prevent them from acquiring the levels of vitamin D that evolution intended us to have.
©2010/THE NEW YORK TIMES