Alaskans Susceptible to Vitamin D Deficiency

Medical Experts Suggest Foods to Prevent Deficiency

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by Whitney LB Miller

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage welcomed a healthy dose of sunshine, Wednesday, but as Alaska's daylight hours are dwindling daily, it is difficult to keep up on your vitamin D dosage during the winter months.

According to medical experts, a deficiency can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common being limited exposure to sunlight, which Alaskans are now facing with winter on the way. 

But there are potential health risks associated with a vitamin D deficiency.

Some research suggests it could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions including type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis.

Symptoms of deficiency include bone pain and muscle weakness, however for many, doctors say the clues can be very subtle.

Vitamin D, nicknamed the "sunshine vitamin" is essential for maintaining strong bones because the vitamin helps the body use calcium from your diet, according to medical experts.

Some believe that tanning can increase your levels, but doctors say that comes at a price.

"Tanning to increase your vitamin D levels comes at a cost of premature aging, wrinkling and skin cancers," said Dr. Peter Ehrnstrom of Alaska Center for Dermatology.

Dr. Ehrnstrom suggests trying to get your daily dose of vitamin D through food. "Eating more things like salmon, shitaki mushrooms, or taking a supplement are better ways of getting the vitamin D you need."

Vitamin D is found in fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks and in fortified dairy and grain products.