Newswise — (Baltimore, MD) -- Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because sunlight helps our bodies produce it. But vitamin D deficiencies are now common throughout the world, and left untreated, can lead to serious bone problems.Zelline Gray is among those with a vitamin D deficiency. She admits her lifestyle prevents her from getting enough sun exposure necessary to produce the vitamin.

"I work all the time, and usually when I'm off work, the sun is not out, so it's kind of hard to grasp sunlight if you're working all the time," Gray said.According to Mercy Medical Center endocrinologist Dr. Amber Champion, vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium and the two work together to build and keep bones strong. While doctors don't screen everyone for vitamin D deficiencies, some people are more at risk.

"People who don't get a lot of sunlight exposure, they have dark skin pigment that blocks some of the sunlight exposure, a malabsorption syndrome from gastrointestinal disease, as well as older adults or people who are overweight or obese," Dr. Champion said.

So how much vitamin D do you need? "Anywhere between 600 and 2,000 units a day in your diet and through your skin," Dr. Champion said.Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, along with eggs and dairy products like yogurt and milk fortified with vitamin D.Gray now takes vitamin D supplements, but has also taken on a new way of life."I'm starting to exercise more, walking, and that will get me out into the sunlight because I like to do it early in the morning, and changing my diet (also helps)," Gray said.

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