Vitamin D – Bringing Sunshine to Your Health

December 4th, 2012 · No Comments · Healthy Living

Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” is one of the most talked about and artificially supplemented nutrients in the human diet. This makes sense as it is also one of the most crucial regulators of bone development and immune function, being responsible for the absorption of calcium and phosphorous in the digestive tract. Aside from producing strong bones and a healthy digestive system, Vitamin D plays a role in the production of many hormones. It is not a vitamin in the technical sense of the word because we as mammals can actually create our own Vitamin D by exposing our skin to the sun. This works well during some parts of the year, but through the winter months most people in temperate regions wear enough clothing to prevent much Vitamin D from being produced by the body. This along with the fact that there is less overall sunlight during the day means supplementation is a good idea.

Many foods such as milk and cereals have added Vitamin D but it is usually in the form of ergocalciferol, or D2, which is not as easily processed by the body. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol is the form of choice. This can only be obtained from animal sources, such as cod liver oil, or it can be processed from wool lanolin. Cod liver oil is such a powerful provider of D3 that it was used to alleviate the rickets epidemic sweeping the industrialized world in the early 1900’s. Many children were kept in thick clothing out of the sun in cities, and with poor nutrition also being an issue, many suffered from rickets, a disease of the bones caused by a lack of Vitamin D and calcium.

The minimum recommended amount of Vitamin D is 600 IU a day, although many people take up to 10000 IU with no negative effects reported at this time. Many fatty fishes such as salmon and tuna are good dietary sources of D3, and mushrooms provide the best natural source of D2. Many multi-vitamins contain some form of Vitamin D, and there are numerous D3 and D2 supplements available to choose from.

Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine three times weekly is enough to produce the body’s requirement of vitamin D. The skin of your face, arms, back, or legs will need to be exposed, without sunscreen for a few minutes then be sure to apply sunscreen to avoid the risk of skin cancer. When considering the amount of Vitamin D you may need from supplementation, take into account factors like skin color, time of year, time spent outdoors, and the amount of sunscreen or coverups that you use.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D:

Infants

  • 0 – 6 months: 400 IU (10 micrograms (mcg) per day)
  • 7 – 12 months: 400 IU (5 mcg/day)

Children

  • 1 – 3 years: 600 IU (15 mcg/day)
  • 4 – 8 years: 600 IU (15 mcg/day)

Older children and adults

  • 9 – 70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg/day)
  • Adults over 70 years: 800 IU (20 mcg/day)
  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: 600 IU (15 mcg/day)

In general, people over age 50 need higher amounts of vitamin D than younger people. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you then look at your options and bring a little “sunshine” vitamin to your health!

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