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Women’s health: shedding light on Vitamin D

MICHAEL F. HOLICK
Boston University Medical Center
Department of Medicine, Section of Endocrinology, Nutrition, and Diabetes, Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory, Boston, MA, USA

Abstract

Throughout evolution sunlight produced vitamin D in the skin has been critically important for women’shealth. Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is actually a hormone. Once it is produced in the skin or ingested fromthe diet it is converted sequentially in the liver and kidneys to its biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Thishormone interacts with its receptor in the small intestine to increase the efficiency of intestinal calcium and phosphateabsorption for the maintenance of the skeleton throughout life. Vitamin D deficiency during the first few years of liferesults in a flattened pelvis making it difficult for childbirth. Vitamin D deficiency causes osteopenia and osteoporosisincreasing risk of fracture in women. Essentially every tissue and cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor. Thereforevitamin D deficiency has been linked in women to increased risk for preeclampsia, requiring a Cesarean section forbirthing, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, type II diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer andinfectious diseases. Therefore sensible sun exposure along with vitamin D supplementation of at least 2000 IU/d isessential to maximize women’s health.


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