The discovery that indoor animals like pets and test rabbits suffer from vitamin D deficiency wasn’t really a test at all – it was accidental.
But a report from the American Journal of Veterinary Research is highlighting the very real health problems that occur while living with a lack of sunlight – for animals and humans.
In rabbits (test subjects or pets), low vitamin D levels lead to cardiovascular issues, weak immune systems and poor dental health – similar to humans. Test rabbits growing up in a lab fare worse; vitamin D deficiency is even skewing test results.
We know that vitamin D is important to vertebrates in that it helps with calcium absorption, but it also has been shown to benefit cardiovascular health and immune function. We know of several types of diseases that can develop with vitamin D deficiency. Some of the chronic problems we see are tooth-related.
Dental problems in animals are common in Mitchell’s research – his findings have pinpointed the origins of the problem to vitamin D deficiency – an understated issue when it comes to dental health. It’s understandable why a lot of animals aren’t allowed outdoors (and why they shouldn’t be left in the sun), but windows block necessary UVB light. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that they get enough from their diets.
In human medicine, they’re starting to measure vitamin D levels as part of our routine medical exams. But if we’re not doing this with animals that we’re using in research, we might be missing a step.
He warns that this problem is undermining research testing and wants to see pets and subjects have a better life.
Fortunately, they discovered that regular exposure to artificial UVB light for just two weeks doubled the rabbits’ serum vitamin D levels.&
Recently, more scientists have come forward emphasizing sunlight to prevent heart disease. It is a metabolism in the body that is not duplicated by supplements. They also find it reduces death from all causes, and they stress that it outweighs any risk because it leads to longer life.
Interestingly, adding vegetables and fruits (like grapes) to your diet provides the perfect “internal sunscreen” while still allowing the good rays. Adding clean animal fats and removing hydrogenated oils can do the same thing!
“Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation Produced From Artificial Lights on Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentration in Captive Domestic Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculi)” is available online and from the U. of I. News Bureau.
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