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4 Types of People Who May Benefit From Vitamin D Supplements
by Peter Bua
Vitamin D is essential to a healthy life. However, very few dietary sources of vitamin D exist. For most people, their only source of vitamin D is produced naturally by the body in reaction to sunlight. However, some people either do not get enough sunlight or cannot produce enough vitamin D for a variety of reasons. Here are four types of people who may suffer from vitamin D deficiencies:
InfantsInfants are prone to vitamin D deficiencies for two reasons:
- Breast milk is a poor source of vitamin D. In fact, cow's milk is also a poor source of vitamin D, but most cow milk in the U.S. has been fortified with vitamin D since the 1930s. Older children can suffer from rickets if they do not receive enough vitamin D in their youth, resulting in bone pain, soft or deformed bones, and impaired growth.
- Infants are usually kept out of the sunlight. An infant's skin is sensitive to sunlight and doctors usually recommend shielding infants from direct sunlight until they reach about six months old. Since skin needs about 15 minutes of exposure to the sun every day to produce enough vitamin D, infants are prone to vitamin D deficiencies.
ElderlyAs we age, our skin's ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight diminishes. The normal process for synthesizing vitamin D happens when:
- The upper layers of the skin produce 7-dehydrocholesterol
- Ultraviolet-B (or UVB) rays striking the skin convert 7-dehydrocholesterol into previtamin D3
- The skin coverts previtamin D3 into cholecalciferol
- The liver converts cholecalciferol along with any dietary sources of vitamin D into calcidiol
- The kidneys convert calcidiol into calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D3
People Who Don't See a Lot of SunlightThere are many reasons why people might not receive enough sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. This includes:
- Night workers who spend much of the day sleeping
- People with disabilities might not spend enough time outdoors
- People who live above 37 degrees north latitude may not receive enough sunlight during certain months of the year. This includes almost every U.S. state outside of the desert southwest and the southeast.
- People with sun sensitivities or those who are prone to skin cancer. Sunscreen reduces the skin's ability to synthesize vitamin D by as much as 98%.