Issue 24 • May 2014

The Buzz Around Vitamin D

Our bodies need Vitamin D. This vital nutrient has created quite a buzz within the medical world, with researchers actively studying its importance and the correlative weight, if any, it plays in disease states. It has long played a role in bone health with helping in the absorption of calcium and increasing muscle strength, but study findings now suggest that vitamin D deficiencies may increase the risk of a multitude of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, auto immune diseases and multiple sclerosis.

The amount of vitamin D that you need varies depending on age. The recommended daily allowance from the Food and Nutrition Board for adults ages 19-70 is 600 IU/day. It has been estimated though that nearly two-thirds of Americans are deficient in vitamin D when checked through blood levels.

So, where exactly do we get vitamin D? Vitamin D can not be obtained through food alone.

There are very limited foods that naturally give us vitamin D, they include fatty fish such as salmon, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods such as milk and breakfast cereal. In order to have optimal vitamin D levels in the body, this nutrient must be obtained through supplementation or through exposure to sunlight.

Nicknamed the ‘sunshine nutrient’, our bodies produce vitamin D through exposure to sunshine. In fact, being out in the sun can produce upwards of 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D in just under the time it takes for our skin to turn a little pink. Darker skin tones and older adults will have a harder time absorbing vitamin D through their skin. Most of us, knowing the risk of skin cancer, use measures such as sunscreen and/or protective clothing when outside. Doing this reduces the body’s ability to produce vitamin D by up to 90 percent.

Are you getting enough vitamin D?

The best measure of vitamin D is through a blood test. Ask your health care provider if checking your level is appropriate. Home tests are even available on line. If you are deficient, prescription vitamin D is often recommended, along with periodic reevaluation of blood levels.

If you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun, you might want to consider adding a separate vitamin D supplement. In adults, taking up to 2,000 IU per day as a supplement is considered safe. Vitamin D3 is recommended over vitamin D2.

Most people can take vitamin D supplementation without a problem. There are certain situations where vitamin D should be used with caution so remember to check with your health care provider if you take medications or have a chronic health care condition.

Susan Smith

Susan Smith

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