If you're not feeling well, you may not be getting enough vitamin D

Americans are deficient in vitamin D, calcium and iron. While sitting in sunshine, drinking a glass of milk and eating a steak might not fix the deficiencies, that could be a step in the right direction.

These three deficiencies top the list of concerns of Sabrina Bublitz, a clinical dietician in Topeka, Kan.
If someone isn't feeling great, these may not be the first things that come to mind, but more and more health professionals are considering vitamin D, calcium and iron deficiencies problem areas.

It is estimated that a billion people in the world may be deficient in vitamin D, according to Dr. Michael Holick, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine last year. Holick, considered the country's expert on vitamin D, is with the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University Medical Center.

"Why is there such a controversy about sensible sun exposure as a recommendation to satisfy our vitamin D requirement?" he writes on his Web site at www.vitamindhealth.org. "The sun has been demonized, and as a result, most of the world's population has been brainwashed into thinking that any exposure to sunlight is bad medicine."

About 95 percent of most people's vitamin D requirement comes from casual exposure to sunlight, Holick writes.

Go outside for a few minutes each day without slathering on the sunscreen, experts suggest. Bublitz said that doesn't mean going to the pool from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. without sunscreen. It just means making sure there is time each day in the sun.

"Spend 10 or 15 minutes without sunscreen," she said.

Unlike Geritol, which has been pushing iron for decades, and the "Got Milk" campaign that encouraged drinking milk, there has been no advertising promotion for vitamin D.

While testing for vitamin D levels isn't routine, it is being done more and more, Bublitz said.

Along with going outside, there are other ways of getting vitamin D. It is difficult to get enough of it just in food, especially if vitamin D levels are below where they should be, Bublitz said.

Most milk is fortified with vitamin D, which is also found in fish, liver oil and egg yolks. Vitamin D can also be obtained with supplements, which is how patients who are deficient are typically treated.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include muscle pain, weak bones and bone fractures, low energy and fatigue, and decreased immunity.

Testing for vitamin D has become more prevalent in the past couple of years, Bublitz said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this month issued a new recommendation that children from birth through their teens need 400 units of vitamin D daily - double the previous recommendation. Infant formula usually has enough of the vitamin that babies on formula don't need supplements, the AAP said.

A child would have to drink four cups of fortified milk daily to get the recommended amount of vitamin D from milk alone.

Source: "MORRIS NEWS SERVICE" adapted from European Sunlight Association