This is the time of year that vitamin D supplements become important.
Doctors are starting to routinely check their patient's vitamin D levels.
They are finding that low blood level of vitamin D has reached epidemic
proportions. Generally, low vitamin D is a problem found in seniors who don't
go outside much. Now people of all ages are starting to show-up with marked
vitamin D deficiencies. As kids play, sun exposure on the skin generally produces
adequate amounts of vitamin D. However, due to the use of sunscreens and
reduced outdoor play time; vitamin D deficiency has become a problem even
for the youth.
Vitamin D Basics
Vitamin D was originally misnamed and is actually not a vitamin at all.
It's a naturally occurring hormone, produced when UVB ultraviolet rays from
the sun strike your skin. Vitamin D plays a key role in preventing
seventeen varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke,
hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain,
osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth
defects, and periodontal disease. If more vitamin D is produced than is
needed, your liver stores the excess. In a natural vitamin D cycle, the
skin produces enough vitamin D in the spring and summer to last you
through the corresponding winter when vitamin D production is at its lowest
due to clothing and reduced hours of sunlight. But not always!
What Steps Should I Take?
1. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked
Your physician can administer a simple blood test to check for 25
hydroxyvitamin D levels. Optimal levels are around 50 ng/mL (125 nM/L). You
can also go to LEF.org and order the test on line.
2. Limited sunscreen free, sun exposure (5 to 15 minutes) in the middle
of the day for adequate vitamin D production.
You need about 4000 to 6000 units of vitamin D daily. You can make about
20,000 units of vitamin D after about 20 minutes of summer sun. Depending on
the color of your skin (darker skin requires longer exposure times) this brief
sun exposure should be adequate for healthy vitamin D production in the
spring and summer months. In the fall and winter, vitamin D supplementation
is about the only way to keep blood levels within the normal range.
3. Supplementing with Vitamin D
Vitamin D3 is readily available from health food stores and inexpensive. It is
always recommended to have your doctor check your vitamin D levels before
taking supplements. Excess vitamin D can be harmful to your body.
Vitamin D from Food
It is almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from your food alone. For
all practical purposes, Vitamin D must come from either sun exposure or
supplementation. Here are the primary foods that are naturally high in
vitamin D listed in International Units (IU): Salmon (3 1/2 oz.) 360 IU
Mackerel (3 1/2 oz.) 345 IU Sardines (3 1/2 oz.) 270 IU Fortified juice
(8 oz.) 100 IU Milk (8 oz.) 98 IU Egg yolk 25 IU
To learn more about the importance of vitamin D go to