Vitamin D-fense

In Your Health, Your World on July 5, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Vitamin C’s reign as  MVP may soon be over.  Recent studies show that vitamin D is now the most sought after player.  In fact, this year the guys at the Institute of Medicine are reviewing scientific data to determine if our daily requirements of vitamin D need adjusting. 

The science gurus have surmised that in addition to its dynamic duo role with calcium in warding off osteoporosis, the sunshine vitamin may play  key roles in preventing certain cancers, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, depression, heart disease, birth defects, postmenopausal weight gain and a host of other ailments. Pretty good news – right? 

The bad news is that according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine; worldwide more than 1 billion people are vitamin D deficient.  Scientific American estimates that three-quarters of American teens and adults are vitamin D “challenged”.  

Why We’re Lacking

  • Health care professionals tell us to stay out of the sun, to wear hats and bathe in sun block to protect against skin cancer.  However, we’re also told that we need sun exposure to help our bodies start making vitamin D.  With all the contradictory advice floating around, it’s no wonder we’re D-ficient!
  • It’s also tougher for some people to make enough vitamin D from sun exposure, like those with darker skins, folks that are overweight, and older.
  • It’s next to impossible to eat enough food to satisfy our daily D requirement. Only a handful of foods  naturally contain vitamin D; salmon, tuna, and mackerel are good sources. Egg yolks, cheese, beef and fortified milks and cereals have some D, but really don’t do much to fill the void.

What To Do

  • Prudent pill poppers seek out easy to swallow and metabolize Vitamin D3 supplements.
  • Some folks choose to catch a few rays between the hours of 10 – 4.  Studies suggest that 10 – 15 minutes of UV ray exposure are enough to kick-start vitamin D production – sorry, no sun screen allowed.
  • Those with an iron will and stomach take a daily dose of cod liver oil – one tablespoon seems to do the trick.   

Simple Ways To Boost Your Intake

• Drink at least 2 cups of vitamin D-fortified milk a day.

• Use milk instead of water in making hot chocolate mix, soups and sauces.

• Choose vitamin D-fortified yogurts and cheeses whenever possible.

• Check labels and choose breakfast cereals that are fortified with vitamin D.

• Flake tuna on top of a salad for a hearty lunch … or make tuna salad sandwiches.

• If you drink soy beverage, choose a vitamin D-fortified brand.

• Grill or bake salmon for a vitamin D-rich meal once a week 

Source:  Vitamin D What You Need to Know About the “Sunshine” Vitamin – Dairy Council of California

Recommended Daily Intake of Calcium and Vitamin D From Food and Supplements

Age Calcium Vitamin D
1-3 500mg  400 IU
4-8 800mg  400 IU
9-18 1300mg  400 IU
19-50 1000mg  800 IU
Over 50 1200mg 1200 IU

 Source: Upstate Medical University

The Verdict …

… is still out.  More studies are needed to decide the best way to get our daily fix and to confirm or deny the health benefits of vitamin D.  Until results are in, strike a balance and use common sense.  

It’s also a good idea to get your vitamin D levels measured.  If you’re like most, your level may be too low. My deficiency was discovered during a routine physical and now I take 2000IUs a day.  It’s important to have a chat with your doctor before making any dietary changes.  

What do you think?  How do you get your daily D?    Is it better to meet nutritional requirements through the foods we eat, or are supplements the better choice? 

 Additional Resources

Office of Dietary Supplements – National Institutes of Health offers information about Vitamin D

The Nutrition Source – Harvard School of Public Medicine offers information about boosting your daily multi-vitamin with vitamin D


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