Vitamin D: A deficiency is so dangerous for the body

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A vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences for health. Although the body can produce enough vitamin D itself, the skin needs enough sunlight for this. inFranken.de reveals the effects of such a deficiency – and what you should pay attention to, especially in winter.

The risk of vitamin D deficiency is particularly high in winter. The vitamin, which the body can only produce itself under the influence of sunlight, often falls below optimal levels in winter. “Nevertheless, very few people suffer from a real vitamin D deficiency,” says nutritionist Yvonne Müller from the AOK Kronach health insurance company. A vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences. One study even concludes that it can increase the risk of death.

“Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from food, thus hardening bones and teeth,” adds Ulrike Umlauft, nutritionist at the AOK Coburg directorate. It also has a positive effect on muscle strength and strengthens the immune system. A real vitamin D deficiency can have serious consequences: It can lead to bone softening, known as rickets in infants and toddlers and osteomalacia in adults. “These diseases can actually be treated well with vitamin D tablets,” says Yvonne Müller. In addition, a vitamin D deficiency in elderly people is regarded as a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Examination on vitamin D: Only 40 percent of adults with optimal levels

According to a study by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only about 40 percent of adults in Germany achieve an optimal vitamin D value. However, a serious vitamin D deficiency is rare. It only makes sense to check this deficiency if you have an increased risk, such as a higher age, immobility or a chronic disease of the stomach, intestines, liver or kidneys or even osteoporosis. A blood test at the doctor’s can confirm low vitamin D levels. In any case, the taking of vitamin D tablets should always be discussed with the family doctor. Because too much vitamin D can also be harmful. “Too large amounts of vitamin D increase the calcium level in the blood with the risk of kidney failure,” warns Yvonne Müller.

Everyone can do something themselves to prevent vitamin D deficiency. A calcium-rich diet with exercise in the fresh air and no smoking is recommended. Those who naturally replenish their vitamin D stores in summer can draw on them in the winter months. Therefore, the general recommendation is to take a walk outdoors two or three times a week, at least from March to October, and to expose your face, hands and arms to the sun for a short period of time uncovered and without sun protection (use sunscreen in good time).

“But even in the winter months, the body produces some vitamin D when you go for a walk outside with your face uncovered and without gloves for 20 to 30 minutes,” says Ulrike Umlauft. The body covers up to 90 percent of its needs through the effect of the sun’s rays, but food can also help a little: Some foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D. These include mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, mushrooms), veal, liver, margarine and egg. Fatty fish, such as cod or salmon, are also particularly high in vitamin D. With this recipe you will do something good for your vitamin D level.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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