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Friday, June 4, 2010

Check Your Knowledge of Vitamin D

With all of the recent research on vitamin D, it is a good time to check your knowledge of this really valuable vitamin.
Many people still think that extra Vitamin D is only needed during the winter months or if you live in the northern part of the country. Another outdated thought is that Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones & teeth, and that is about it.

But, in the last 10-15 years or so, scientists have realized that wasn't just bone-forming cells that were affected by vitamin D. Almost every cell in our body has receptors for vitamin D.

What else does Vitamin D do? The short answer is "a lot".

-For starters, vitamin D is essential for a strong immune system. Some experts think that may just be why winter is cold and flu season.

-Studies have also shown that adequate vitamin D intake significantly reduces the risk of several types of cancer, especially colon, breast, lung and prostate cancer. Plus, some studies suggest that adequate vitamin D intake may make cancer treatment more effective.

-Vitamin D may reduce heart disease risk as well.

-Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation reduces the levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for the inflammation associated with heart disease. In addition, a combination of vitamin D, calcium and magnesium can also lower blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

-Finally, there are a number of studies suggesting that vitamin D is beneficial in preventing auto-immune diseases. For example, in the Nurses Health Study just 400 IU of vitamin D was sufficient to reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis by 40%.

-In Iowa another study followed 30,000 women age 55 to 69 for 11 years and found that those who got the most vitamin D from diet and supplementation were the least likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

-And in Finland a recent study reported that kids who were given 2,000 IU of vitamin D in the 1960s had an 80% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes (Don't ask me why they were giving kids 2,000 IU of vitamin D in Finland in the '60s).

There are more health benefits of getting enough vitamin D appearing in the literature every day. Turns out, Vitamin D is a super power in the vitamin world!

But how much vitamin D is enough? The answer to that question is changing as well.

They found, for example, that most people didn't have adequate levels of vitamin D in their bloodstream- even in the summer. So you can forget that advice about not needing dietary vitamin D in the summer!

They also found that the previous RDAs for vitamin D were simply not adequate. Most experts now think that the RDA should be increased to a least 1000 IU up to age 50, and some experts think that the RDA should be as high as 2000 IU.

So what should you do? The simple answer is to get more vitamin D from sun exposure and your diet. Forget the old advice to slather yourself with sunscreen every time you set foot outside of the house. While you still want to avoid prolonged sun exposure without sunscreen, most experts are now recommending 10-15 minutes sun exposure without sunscreen every day.

Also, try to get at least 1000 IU of vitamin D from food (vitamin D fortified milk, salmon, mackerel, tuna & sardines are good sources) and supplementation. I know that the multivitamin I take from Shaklee just upped their vitamin D to new higher recommended levels.

And please, check with your doctor to find out what your vitamin D levels are. Only by having your blood levels tested will you know if you are getting enough of this vital nutrient.

Have a great Friday everyone!


  1. That is really interesting about sun exposure without sunscreen - especially with all the emphasis on skin cancer these days!

  2. Great article!!! Thanks Cara.
    I recently got tested for vitamin D and was found to be deficient. I was shocked at the multiple repercussions from this deficiency. I've spoken to several others and all the people I know tested for it (3-4) were lacking. I asked about drinking fortified milk and my doctor said it would take drinking the whole carton to get any significant benefit from it. Food for thought...sorry for the pun. :Z

  3. I should get my levels checked maybe the milk and sunshine aren't enough.

  4. I was just discussing this with my pediatrician. He said he isn't crazy about the Vitamin D supplements but everyone worries about getting too much sun so it's a hard balance to strike.


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