The “Sunshine Vitamin”
As the days shorten and we are more covered in long-sleeved clothing, we need to remember to still get sufficient vitamin D. Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. It is a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D1, D2, and D3. It can affect as many as 2,000 genes in the body.
Uses and Benefits
Vitamin D has several important functions. Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, and facilitating normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you’re at risk of developing bone abnormalities such as osteomalacia (soft bones) or osteoporosis (fragile bones).
D Fights Disease
In addition to its primary benefits, research suggests that vitamin D may also play a role in:
- reducing your risk of multiple sclerosis, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
- decreasing your chance of developing heart disease, according to 2008 findings published in Circulation
- helping to reduce your likelihood of developing the flu, according to 2010 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
How Do You Get It?
Your body produces vitamin D naturally through direct exposure to sunlight. However, people who do not live in sunny places may not make enough vitamin D. Skin that is exposed to sunshine indoors through a window will not produce vitamin D. Cloudy days, shade, and having dark-colored skin also cut down on the amount of vitamin D the skin makes.
Besides getting vitamin D through sunlight, you can also get it through certain foods and supplements. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you obtain vitamin D from all three of these sources in order to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin in your blood.
Beware of “D-ficiency”
Vitamin D deficiency is now considered a worldwide pandemic, with around 50% of the World’s population at risk. No one is immune to vitamin D deficiency with the most at risk groups including those that avoid UVB radiation, overuse high factor sunscreen, prolonged time spent indoors, those that live in the northerly latitudes or higher altitudes. The time of year, weather, age, skin pigmentation, clothing, activity and skin irradiated can also affect the vitamin D status of an individual.
Food Sources of D
Although few foods contain vitamin D naturally, some foods are fortified with it, which means that the vitamin is added to the food. Foods that contain vitamin D include:
- egg yolk
- milk (fortified)
- cereal (fortified)
- yogurt (fortified)
- orange juice (fortified)
It can be hard to get enough vitamin D each day through sun exposure and food alone, so taking vitamin D supplements can help.
How Much Do You Need?
800 IU/day is the current minimum requirement for over 50’s; this dosage is associated with reduced incidence of fractures. Research has shown 5,000 IU/day can increase serum levels of the active form of vitamin D to acceptable levels in just 8-weeks. Recommendations should be made on an individual basis, with requirements varying dramatically depending on a number of factors, but in general a dose of 2,500 IU/day would be sufficient for most QUALITY ASSURANCE.
Meet Your Needs for D
Some sources suggest that considerably higher daily amounts of vitamin D—as high as 2000 IU per day—are needed. The Vitamin D Council recommends that adults need higher amounts of vitamin D than younger people do.
Although the exact amount may be in question, the importance of vitamin D is not. Talk to your doctor for guidance on how to ensure you get the right amount for your needs.
If you have any questions or need to get yourself some vitamin D, pick up a bottle next time you’re at the gym!
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