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July 2018

The ABC’s of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for health that has long been associated with maintaining strong bones. This vitamin aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, helps regulate blood calcium, and protects against the loss of bone mass. Vitamin D also plays a role in fighting inflammation, boosting the immune system and helping muscles function.  Research suggests there may be added health benefits linked to Vitamin D including: heart health and reduced risk of colon cancer and type II diabetes.  With all of these health benefits it is essential that vitamin D levels are adequate.   

Vitamin D Recommendations
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 600 IU of vitamin D daily if under age 70, and 800 IU for those 70+. Some leading experts believe it should be higher due to current indoor lifestyles, the use of sunscreens and few good food sources for vitamin D.

There are several factors that may contribute to D-deficiency including:

excess body fat very dark skin over age 50 liver disease gastrointestinal disorders gastric bypass surgery little effective sun exposure medications taken on a regular basis such as: antacids, mineral oil, calcium channel blockers, cholestyramine and corticosteroids.

If your vitamin D levels in your blood are low, requirements will be more. Your physician may prescribe a high dose of D for a short period if your D is extremely low.  Additional vitamin D may not benefit your bones if you are not D-deficient. However, there may be other health benefits.

If you choose to take more than 800 IU/day you should check with your health care provider, especially if you have a history of kidney stones.

Get Your Vitamin D
There are three ways to get vitamin D: your diet, the sun or from supplements.

FOOD: Few foods naturally have vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are the best sources. Sardines and D-fortified products (mainly dairy) along with ‘vitamin D-rich’ mushrooms are relatively good sources. Egg yolks also contain some D. The new Nutrition Facts label will include the vitamin D content. 

SUN: We rely on sunlight for most of our vitamin D. Sun on the skin enables the body to make vitamin D. Try ‘safe’ sun exposure (15 minutes before 10AM or after 2PM) each day.

SUPPLEMENTS: Getting adequate vitamin D from food and sun exposure may be difficult. If the D levels in your blood are low or you are at risk, you may need to supplement.

What is Your Vitamin D Status?
It is important to ensure your vitamin D is adequate to maintain strong bones and overall health. Get your blood level checked.

The best indicator of vitamin D status is the blood test 25(OH) D.  When tested, the level should be a minimum of 30 nmol/L. For overall health it should be at 30-50 nmol/L.

The Bottom Line
Make the most of the few good food sources.  Maintain a healthy body weight. Enjoy safe sun exposure. Get D levels checked to see if you need to supplement.


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