My doctor and I were recently surprised by the results of routine blood test – my vitamin D levels were well below the “normal” range. Of the various health issues to be concerned about, Vitamin D was nowhere near the top of my list. Recent studies in the journal Nutrition Research and The Southern Medical Journal confirm why it should be on yours.
Vitamin D is vital in maintaining calcium and phosphorus levels. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is vital to strong, healthy bones. Studies also show it protects the body from osteoporosis, rickets, high blood pressure, cancer, and other disorders. Vitamin D also has a role in your nerve, muscle, and immune systems. [Mayo Clinic]. This is one “D” you want to have!
Your body naturally forms Vitamin D after exposure to sunlight. However, be cautious, since too much sun exposure can lead to skin aging and skin cancer. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D, according to the CDC. The sun needs to shine on the skin of your face, arms, back, or legs (without sunscreen). Because of the risk for skin cancer, you should use sunscreen after a few minutes in the sun.
You can get also get Vitamin D through your diet – it is found in in egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver. Some other foods high in Vitamin D include dairy products – cheese, butter, cream, and fortified milk (all milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D); fatty fish (such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel); oysters; fortified breakfast cereals, margarine, and soy milk (check the Nutrition Fact Panel on the food label) [NIH 2012].
Many people do not get enough vitamin D through diet. So a vitamin D supplement may be necessary. Always check with your health care provider to see whether or not you need one and if so, how much to take. The Institute of Medicine has revised the intake guidelines, and has concluded that more isn’t necessarily better — as too much Vitamin D can lead to other health problems.
Seniors, breastfed infants, people with dark skin, those with certain conditions such as liver diseases, cystic fibrosis and Crohn’s disease, and people who are obese or have had gastric bypass surgery are at greater risk for inadequate or deficient levels of Vitamin D.
I don’t fall into any of these categories. So what’s up test results? A CDC analysis shows that from 2001-2006, about one-quarter of the population was at risk of vitamin D inadequacy (serum 25OHD 30–49 nmol/L), and 8 percent were at risk of vitamin D deficiency (serum 25OHD less than 30 nmol/L). Additionally, many people over 50, particularly women, no longer produce enough Vitamin D naturally. That is my niche.
We know that bone density decreases significantly after menopause. Women who are peri-menopausal also have bone-related deficiencies, including low vitamin D levels, according to a recent study at the Carlos III Institute in Spain. Researchers recommend a diet with less protein and fat and more nuts, vegetables and carbohydrates, to correct low levels of vitamins D and achieve a better overall dietary balance.
If you are in a high risk group or are peri-, post-, or active menopausal age, talk to your doctor. Ensuring bone health now could prevent many future health issues.