Adequate Amount of vitamin D Critical for Good Health

By Jeff Mulhollem and Chuck Gill, Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK — Vitamin D has been touted in the news recently as the new miracle vitamin, and the importance and benefits of vitamin D supplementation has been discussed at length by media giants from Oprah Winfrey to Dr. Phil. Vitamin D supplementation does seem to be linked with benefits, according to a nutrition specialist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“Higher vitamin D intake has been associated with lower risks of colorectal, prostate and breast cancer,” said J. Lynne Brown, professor of food science. “Higher vitamin D intake also has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a lower risk of type 1 diabetes and lower risk of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.”

However, the key word is “associated,” Brown noted. None of these possible relationships have been proven using the gold standard of clinical trials. The only proven relationship is vitamin D’s effect on bone health. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium from the intestine.

The most natural method for one to get a sufficient amount of vitamin D is sunlight exposure, Brown pointed out. “Fifteen to 30 minutes of sunlight on skin without sunscreen will provide all the daily need of vitamin D,” she said. “However, individuals living in the Northern Hemisphere and those of African or East Asian origin who have higher melanin content in their skin may not get enough sun exposure for sufficient vitamin D production.”

Brown recommends that these individuals acquire vitamin D through other means, such as vitamin D fortified milk, oily fish, egg yolk or tablet supplements. Still, the Institute of Medicine recently reported that national dietary intake data indicated that most Americans are getting enough vitamin D and set the recommended daily allowance at 600 IU/day for most adults.

Only the elderly might fall short, so the recommended daily allowance for those over age 70 was set at 800 IU/day.

Brown warned that vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in adolescents and osteopenia and osteoporosis in adults. But it is important, she cautioned, to discuss any concerns about vitamin D deficiency with a primary health-care provider.

“You also should review all potential supplementation with your doctor, because any vitamin supplements can interact adversely with other ongoing drug treatments,” she said. If you take supplements, your intake from foods and supplements should not exceed the tolerable upper limit for vitamin D of 4,000 IU per day.

The College of Agricultural Sciences provides publications with pertinent information on vitamin supplementation for health. These fact sheets, authored by Brown, detail the health benefits and risks of vitamin A, D and E supplements.

Single copies of these fact sheets can be obtained free of charge by Pennsylvania residents through county Penn State Cooperative Extension offices, or by contacting the College of Agricultural Sciences Publications Distribution Center at 814-865-6713 or by e-mail at AgPubsDist@psu.edu. For cost information on out-of-state or bulk orders, contact the Publications Distribution Center.

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One thought on “Adequate Amount of vitamin D Critical for Good Health

  1. cleansemart

    Vitamin D3 is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system possibly reducing one’s risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases, increasing neuro-muscular function and decreasing falls, improving mood, protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and potentially reducing pain.

    Vitamin D3 is both a vitamin and a hormone. It acts as a vitamin when it binds with calcium for proper absorption. Humans cannot digest calcium without adequate amounts of Vitamin D3. The most common reasons for Vitamin D3 deficiency in the United States relates to lack of exposure to sunlight and infrequent consumption of cold water fish such as wild salmon, mackerel & sardines. A standard blood chemistry panel will provide your doctor with your levels of vitamin D3. The test is called 25(OH)D. The existing guidelines state that a deficiency is anything below 50nmol/l, but recent studies show that 80 nmol/l is needed to keep healthy bones and enable vitamin D to perform its other roles in the body. Foods have been supplemented with Vitamin D, but this has not resulted in an overall increase in Vitamin D levels. This is likely because food and supplement manufacturers rely on an inexpensive form of synthetic Vitamin D called “ergocalciferol”- a form of Vitamin D2.

    If you have bone loss or osteoporosis, spend 20 minutes daily in the sunshine with 40% of your skin surface exposed. Morning sun is best; Don’t allow your skin to burn. Tanning Beds do not provide Vitamin D3. Eat foods high in Vitamin D3 including Cod liver oil, fortified milk, salmon, mackerel, & sardines, egg yolks, beef liver. If you take Vitamin D supplements make sure it is Vitamin D3 and not D2. Take Vitamin D3 supplements with food. I usually recommend Vitamin D3 2000iu-5000iu/ day depending on lab levels.

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