Vitamins 101

Could You Be Vitamin Deficient?
The body needs thirteen vitamins to function optimally. This may seem like an overwhelming number, but there is no need to worry. Research indicates that approximately 90% of Americans are able to meet their vitamin needs. Still, two vitamins pose a challenge for some. Could you be at risk?

The Vitamin D Dilemma
Vitamin D is best known for its role in assisting calcium in maintaining strong bones. D also regulates blood pressure, produces hormones, and supports the immune and nervous systems. In theory, we should be able to make all the vitamin D we need (400-1000 IUs) when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. However, with the risks of skin cancer prevalent, most Americans are diligent about shielding themselves from the sun. In addition, those with dark skin, the elderly, and individuals living in northern climates are not able to efficiently convert the sun’s rays.

As a result, the safest way to ensure adequate vitamin D levels is by consuming this important nutrient. This presents another challenge since vitamin D can be difficult to get from foods. The best sources are fatty fish like salmon, tuna or trout. Eggs and fortified foods like dairy products, cereals and orange juice are also good sources. Yet, without careful planning, some individuals will need to take vitamin D3 supplements to get enough. Muscle weakness is a sign of deficiency, but the only true way to know if levels are low is through a blood test.

Vitamin B12 – A Challenge for Vegetarians and the Elderly
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supports nerve and blood cells and assists with energy production. If levels are too low, megaloblastic anemia can result, a condition that causes fatigue and weakness. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products like meat, fish, chicken, and eggs. As a result, individuals who follow a vegetarian diet are at risk for deficiency if they don’t get the recommended 6 mcg per day from fortified foods like cereals, nutritional yeasts or vitamin B12 supplements. Some individuals, particularly the elderly, are unable to absorb vitamin B12, which leads to pernicious anemia. In such cases, the nutrient must be delivered via a shot or through a nasal gel.

If you are not able to eat a varied diet, or suspect you could be vitamin deficient, consult with your physician for your best treatment options.