|By Jill Armayor for DRS Health
Calcium, a component of a healthy diet, has long been known to play a vital role in maintaining optimal bone density and keeping your bones healthy as you age. Calcium supplements have been a mainstay in women’s health for many years in the prevention of osteoporosis, and have probably been recommended by your doctor, especially if you have a family history of low bone density or osteoporosis.
Less emphasis, however, has been placed on the equally significant Vitamin D and its role in the maintenance of optimal bone density, needed to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption to occur in your intestine and is needed for effective bone growth and the constant turnover of bone cells, known as bone remodeling. Vitamin D is needed in conjunction with calcium to ensure that your bone density remains at the proper level.
Vitamin D is naturally found in very few foods, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and cod liver oil. Since these foods aren’t staples in the average American diet, many manufacturers are fortifying their foods with vitamin D to provide a wider range of options for you. Adequate amounts of vitamin D can be supplemented in cereals, juices and many other foods. The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU of vitamin D per day for healthy adults, and 800 IU for seniors. Since this amount is difficult to obtain in the diet, a vitamin supplement is often recommended.
Vitamin D is also made by your body when you are exposed to UV rays from the sun. Studies have shown that those living at higher latitudes have an increased incidence of inadequate vitamin D blood levels. Some investigations have revealed an association between these low vitamin D blood levels and the incidence of viral infections, more evident in the winter months. More exploration is needed in this area to determine how much adequate vitamin D intake influences the occurrence of sickness associated with the winter months.
Recent research has uncovered more interesting links between adequate vitamin D levels and the strength and efficiency of the immune system. Vitamin D aids in the activation of your immune defenses in the presence of harmful bacteria and viruses. T-Cells, immune cells that fight off these nasty bugs, need vitamin D to activate. Otherwise, they will travel around the blood stream completely oblivious to the looming threat of cold or flu viruses. Vitamin D is also required for T-Cells to be transformed into helper cells, which house the memory of the immune system. Next time your immune system fights off an imminent cold with ease, you can thank your T-cells and vitamin D for a job well done.