If you’ve ever succumbed to the late night temptation of a pint of cookies n cream and thought “well at least I got my calcium today” then you are not alone my friend. However, have you ever wondered where that calcium goes and what’s the deal with vitamin D? Stay tuned for these and other mysteries.
Sometimes I’ll walk past a neighbor’s lawn or a big leafy plant in the window and think “man, plants sure have it easy.” All they do is lay out in the sun all day, not working, sponging off our tax dollars, and more importantly not having to worry about food. Plants can convert atmospheric carbon dioxide and water into sugars in the presence of sunlight…lazy good for nothings. What if we had the ability to produce something our body’s need just by laying out in the sun? Well guess what you freak, you can! That’s right, good ole vitamin D is produced in our skin when exposed to UV radiation. [Sorry for calling you a freak. I get carried away sometimes. Let’s be friends]
The Nuts and Bolts…
Vitamin D acts as a hormone to regulate calcium levels in our bodies. It is what allows the calcium we effortlessly soak up from foods like milk and cheese to be absorbed. This process is of course tightly monitored and controlled by parathyroid hormone as well as the level of calcium and phosphate circulating in our bloodstream. Calcium and phosphorous build bone. Calcium in it’s ionized form is involved in all manner of enzymatic mayhem (but in that fun way). In fact, aside from buiding bone, ionized calcium (Ca2+) facilitates electrical conduction in the heart, allows for nerve impulses, and aids in muscle contractions (remember that the heart is also a muscle). If the level of calcium in the blood is high and inhibits the action of parathyroid hormone then the cool kids (scientists) refer to this kind of inhibition as negative feedback.
America, let’s talk about the facts
There’s a little confusion these days about what foods actually provide solid sources of vitamin D. There are fewer foods than you may think, and if you were about to say the M word then allow me to hit you with some knowledge. Milk, as in cow’s milk, is actually fortified with vitamin D. In the states we have fortified a lot of our dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt with vitamin D. This makes a lot of sense since these foods are naturally rich in calcium. It all started as a public health campaign back in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s to combat a nasty vitamin D deficiency linked bone deformity in children called Rickets, or osteomalcia in adults. Yes, “Rickets” is a real word. In fact I’ve always found the word nostrils to be pretty funny too, but let’s stay focused. NOSTRILS.
Adding the vitamin D allows us to absorb the calcium we are getting from that mouth watering hunk of aged white cheddar or that cold, frothy glass of chocolate 2 percent perfection that is chocolate milk (guilty pleasure I admit).
If you are looking for foods that are naturally rich in the “D” may I suggest you look to the sea. Oily fish like maceral, tuna, and salmon all contain healthy doses of vitamin D. If you combine that with the sunlight you should already be exposing yourself to during the day, then you’ll be all set. Just to be clear, I advise that you expose yourself to sunlight and not that you expose yourself…um..in the sunlight. I don’t want to get calls later. Ok bye!