Vitamin D, A Bone Building Co-factor

Nutrition / November 16, 2011

When it comes to building strong bones – calcium tends to take center stage.  But vitamin D plays a vital supporting role in the bone-building process.

Co-Factors & Absorption

In order for any nutrient to work, it must be properly absorbed. One reason a nutrient might not be properly absorbed is if it is missing key co-factors. Co-factors are key helper molecules that assist in the body’s biochemical processes, such as building bones. Calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, needs to be present to signal the bones to absorb calcium, making vitamin D one of the key co-factors for bone building. So even if you are consuming calcium, without the appropriate levels of vitamin D (and other co-factors), the bones will not get the signal to absorb all the calcium. So what happens to the calcium that is not absorbed?  It can end up in places it is not wanted, like the arteries of the heart, or kidney stones.  According to a study published in the May 2010 issues of the BMJ, high dose calcium administered without vitamin D is associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction.

How do we get our vitamin D?  The best source by far is the sun, which is why vitamin D is called the “Sunshine Vitamin.” For years we have been told by doctors and dermatologists to avoid the sun’s rays.  But without being told to obtain our vitamin D elsewhere, many Americans are now deficient in vitamin D, some with severely low levels.  A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 70% – 97% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is key to many bodily functions beyond bone health.  Low vitamin D levels are associated with increased susceptibility to a wide range of health issues, ranging from the common cold to cancers. According to Dr. Cedric F. Garland of the Moores Cancer Center and UCSD School of Medicine, “75% of breast cancers could be prevented with higher vitamin D serum levels.”  So it is of paramount importance to know your serum blood levels of vitamin D to protect our bones and many other key biological functions.  Your healthcare practitioner can order a vitamin D screen.

Learn more about vitamin D, including dietary sources and signs of deficiency, by reading Sara’s blog: The Sunshine Vitamin

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