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If you are affected by excess weight or obesity, you have an increased risk of developing vitamin D deficiency. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to weak bones while impairing other aspects of your health as well. Many people throughout the country are falling short on their vitamin D needs, so it may be time to reconsider your own intake.

In this day and age with an overabundance of food in our country and a good supply of vitamin supplements, you may be wondering how anyone could be deficient in any nutrient. And, vitamin D, in particular, is unique because our bodies can actually make it when our skin is exposed to sunshine. However, a number of factors limit our body’s production of vitamin D including darker skin color, obesity, less sun exposure in Northern states and skin-protecting sunscreen. Though you could go outside without skin-protecting sunscreen, harmful UV rays damage skin and can lead to skin cancer. The questions remain, “What’s the best way to get the right amount of vitamin D and why is it important?”

Where we live, what we eat, and how we choose to protect ourselves from the sun have all contributed to a recent increase in vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency across the U.S. Insufficiency means our vitamin D levels are not in the range that is best for our health. Deficiency means our vitamin D levels are too low! It is becoming more apparent that diet and sunlight alone are not fulfilling the need for vitamin D in many population groups. Current data shows that vitamin D insufficiency impacts millions. The Archives of Internal Medicine reported that more than 75 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D levels are now checked more often as part of regular medical checkups, and medical professionals are recommending using a vitamin D supplement to ensure vitamin D levels are in a healthy range.

In addition to diet and exposure to sunlight, obesity has an effect on the body’s vitamin D levels. As a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D is stored in fat tissue. When a person has too much fat tissue, vitamin D is not as available for use throughout the body. Making matters worse, many people do not get enough vitamin D from their diet.

Vitamin D plays an important role in many body functions and systems. The most well-known reason to keep your vitamin D within a healthy range is its important role in bone health. As we age, we gradually lose bone mass, a process that speeds up for women during their post-menopausal years. Without enough Vitamin D levels in our body, calcium cannot be absorbed properly, nor can proper blood levels of calcium or phosphorus be maintained. It has a crucial role in bone health and in the proper functioning of nervous and immune systems, breast and colon health.

The simplest and most effective path to make sure your body is getting the vitamin D it needs is to have your doctor check your level. If needed your doctor may tell you to take higher doses to bring your vitamin D up to a healthy level, then switch to a lower daily dose to keep your vitamin D levels healthy throughout a lifetime.