The Truth About Vitamin D


The Wonder Vitamin: Vitamin D


Most of us know we need vitamin D for strong bones. Now it appears that this nutrient, or rather a lack of it, may play a role in asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, diabetes, even weight gain. See why vitamin D may be one of the most important nutrients in your health toolbox, who's at risk for a deficiency, and the safest ways to get enough vitamin D.



Vitamin D and Your Bones

Vitamin D allows your body to absorb calcium. Without it, your bones can become brittle and weak. In adults, too little vitamin D can lead to malformed bones and osteoporosis.  In children, vitamin D deficiency once caused many cases of rickets, a bone disease and a major public health problem in the U.S. Fortifying the milk supply with vitamin D virtually eliminated the disorder.

Shown here is a normal spongy bone matrix.




Vitamin D for Heart and Mind

Low blood levels of vitamin D may have effects beyond your bones. Studies find a greater risk of heart problems and a greater risk of depression in older adults. And though it's not clear why, people taking a vitamin D supplement were 7% less likely to die than those who didn't take a daily supplement in one study. In children, researchers have found more severe asthma when vitamin D levels are low.


Vitamin D Comes From Skin

In a perfect world, you'd never have to worry about getting enough vitamin D. Your body produces it on its own. The trick is exposing some portion of your skin to direct sunlight for 15 to 30 minutes a few days a week. But the UV rays that stimulate production of vitamin D can also cause skin cancer. So most experts don't recommend getting your vitamin D from sun exposure.




Vitamin D Where You Live

The darker a person's skin, the more difficult it is to get vitamin D from  sunlight. Fair-skinned people might be willing to risk the 10 to 15 minutes they need to get enough. But there's still a problem. Unless you live near the earth's equator there isn't enough sunlight year round to produce all the vitamin D you need. Most people need other sources.


Who's at Risk for "D" Deficiency?

Studies find vitamin D deficiency affects adults, infants, children, and adolescents. Your diet may increase your risk if it's low in milk or the foods that naturally contain vitamin D, such as salmon and eggs. Most people with low blood levels of vitamin D don't notice any symptoms. Others risk factors include:

  • Obesity

  • Digestive disorders like celiac disease

  • Older age (50+)

  • Some medications



Blood Pressure and Vitamin D

The combination of high blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency could be deadly. In one observational study, people with hypertension and a vitamin D deficiency were twice as likely to have a cardiac event than other people in the study. The lack of vitamin D was not linked to cardiovascular problems in those without hypertension.


Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

Low vitamin D may worsen the prognosis for women with breast cancer. In one study, women deficient in vitamin D when they were diagnosed had a 94% greater chance of the cancer spreading. They also had a 73% greater chance of dying over the next 10 years. Other studies suggest that vitamin D may even offer protection against developing breast cancer.




Vitamin D and Other Cancers

Vitamin D may offer some protection against at least two other cancers: colon cancer and prostate cancer. But vitamin D isn't a magic bullet. The cancer-fighting benefit may be limited to people who are otherwise healthy, not overweight, and exercise.


Vitamin D and Depression

It isn't clear how they are related. But studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to depression among older men and women. One possible explanation is that lack of vitamin D causes the parathyroid gland to produce more hormone. Low levels of vitamin D and higher levels of parathyroid hormone have been linked to depression severity.




Vitamin D and Weight Gain

After menopause, most women gain weight until they reach their mid 60s. There is evidence, though, that taking a vitamin D and calcium supplement may slow that weight gain. In one study, women who were not getting enough of those two nutrients at the start were 11% less likely to gain weight and more likely to maintain their weight or even lose weight as a result of taking the supplement.


Vitamin D and Children

Evidence shows that children who get adequate vitamin D, either from the sun or from supplements, may have a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Studies also link inadequate vitamin D to more severe childhood asthma. Children with asthma who have low vitamin D levels have more hospitalizations and use more asthma medications.




Start Your Day With Vitamin D

Not many vegeterian foods contain Vitamin D.One way to get vitamin D is through your diet. In the U.S., nearly all milk is fortified with vitamin D, and many brands of orange juice are, too. Even ready-to-eat breakfast cereals can contain a healthy dose. So just by making sure you eat breakfast, you can make every day a "D day."

Vitamin D at Dinner

Fish especially fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are a good source of vitamin D. One 3-ounce portion of cooked salmon can provide nearly 200% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. Three ounces of specially grown mushrooms that have been exposed to UVB light can provide 100%.




Eggs, Cheese, and Vitamin D

Other food sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, cod liver oil, beef liver, margarine, yogurt, and some cheeses. While milk has been fortified in the United States since the 1930s, the same is not true for all dairy products. Cheese and ice cream may be a tasty source of calcium, but you need to read the nutrition label to know whether or not you're getting vitamin D.

Vitamin D Supplements

To be sure you get enough vitamin D, many experts say you need to take a supplement. Most multivitamin tablets contain 400 IU of vitamin D, which means taking one or two tablets a day will provide the current recommended amount of vitamin D for most people. You can also find vitamin D by itself in higher-dose tablets and in combination with calcium.




D2 or D3? That's the Question.

Vitamin D is available in supplements in two forms: D2 and D3. Both forms are effective, and either can be taken to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D. But 2 is not equal to 3. D3 is the kind of vitamin D the body makes, and recent studies suggest that D3 can be up to three times more effective in raising the vitamin D level quickly and staying longer.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

How much vitamin D you need depends on your age and risk factors. Recommendations for daily adequate intake, which are being reviewed, are 200 IU for adults under 50, 400 IU for ages 51 to 70, and 600 IU for ages 70 or over. Most experts, though, feel those levels are too low. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 800 to 1,000 IU for all adults over age 50.




Daily Dose for Breastfed Babies

Breast milk provides multiple benefits for babies, but it is not a good source for vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all breastfed babies receive a 400 IU daily supplement of vitamin D starting shortly after birth and continuing until the baby is weaned and drinking at least 1,000 mL of vitamin D-fortified formula or whole milk.

Vitamin D for Older Children

Vitamin D-fortified whole milk and foods can provide the vitamin D that growing kids need as long as they get enough of it. The AAP recommends that children who do not get at least 400 IU of vitamin D per day from their diet should be given a daily supplement of 400 IU.




Testing for Vitamin D

There is a simple blood test 25 hydroxyvitamin D test your doctor can order to check your level of vitamin D. This test is available at our lab. Patient needs to report to the lab with overnight 8-10 hr fast. For more details contact the lab.


Vitamin D and Other Drugs

Steroid medications can interfere with metabolism of vitamin D. If you take steroids, you should discuss vitamin D with your doctor. The same is true for the weight loss drug orlistat, some cholesterol-lowering drugs, and seizure drugs such as phenobarbitol. Cholesterol-lowering statins, on the other hand, will raise vitamin D levels.




How Much Is Too Much?

There is an upper limit to how much vitamin D you can safely take. Current Institute of Medicine recommendations for adults say that a daily intake of up to 2,000 IU of vitamin D is safe. Some experts say that limit is far too low. However, you should not take more vitamin D than that unless you're told to do so by your doctor. The upper limit for infants is lower. Talk with your doctor about how much vitamin D is safe for your child.


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