We all love white winters and enjoy the season indoors with warm food, loved ones and television. We also associate winters with skin troubles like dry skin, chapped lips, etc. But the health problems that this cozy season can lead to are far more serious than this. During winter minimal amount of sunlight reaches us. The ultraviolet rays that are part of sunlight are essential for production of vitamin D in our skin. Vitamin D is a very crucial vitamin for our bodies, for bone development and growth, to maintain healthy bones, for absorption of calcium depends on vitamin D. For a healthy, fracture-free life we need our daily dose of vitamin D. The richest natural source of this is sunlight which is robbed during winters.
According to a study conducted at the University of Buffalo, residents of snowy, northern U.S. cities are at an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. During Buffalo’s winter months, nearly half the population has insufficient amounts of vitamin D and 25% have vitamin D deficiency, says nutrition researcher Peter Horvath of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health professions. Here may be the answer to why so many aches and pains plague our joints during winters and why we suffer from lethargy and lack of energy. Research is now providing the answers to this annual problem.
The requirement of vitamin D is greater in children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women. They are all at a higher risk of developing vitamin D deficiency. Also, people with a very fair complexion are at risk because skin acts as natural sunscreen.
All other vitamins can be procured by eating the right food and fruits, but vitamin D is produced by the body only when our skin absorbs ultraviolent sunrays. During winter months, people layer up to shield against the cold and venture out less, further reducing exposure to sun.
Adequate amounts of vitamin D are crucial because of the vitamin’s widespread effect on the body. It often takes a long time for us to detect that one is deficient of vitamin D. Deficiency of vitamin D will not only lead to lower bone density and increased chances of having fractures, but it also increases risk for type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart diseases and cognitive deterioration in the elderly. The skin in older people produces lower amounts of vitamin D, so they often suffer with functional fitness, such as opening cans or standing up.
A vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 international units per day is recommended for people exposed to northern winters. One should include in a daily diet wild raised salmon, oily fish, breakfast cereals, vitamin D enriched milk and cod liver oil, as these foods are a rich source of vitamin D. Also, irradiated mushrooms, due to its growth under direct sunlight are under study. These mushrooms could help you in glucose regulation as well as improving weight loss, especially among women.
One of the easier ways to avoid vitamin D deficiency in winter is by keeping vitamin levels high in summer.
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD
- University at Buffalo, ‘Winter weather depriving city dwellers of vitamin D’, ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. 13 February 2015.
- LeBlanc ES, Zakher B, Daeges M, Pappas M, Chou R. Screening for vitamin d deficiency: a systematic review for the U.S. Preventive services task force. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Jan 20;162(2):109-22. doi: 10.7326/M14-1659.