Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is one nutrient that the majority of Americans are deficient in – especially those in the northern states. Vitamin D is vitally important for health; deficiency is associated with numerous diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, osteoporosis, psoriasis, periodontal disease, macular degeneration, mental illness, propensity to fall and chronic pain.
Beyond its role in enhancing calcium absorption, research has shown that vitamin D improves immune function (fights colds and flu) and it may have a role in reduction of the risk of certain cancers, like colorectal and lung cancers.
Factors that affect vitamin D status include: latitude, season, time of day, air pollution, cloud cover, melanin content of the skin, use of sunblock, age, and the extent of clothing covering the body. Also, prescription medications can deplete levels of vitamin D.
Most people these days aren’t able to get enough vitamin D by way of the sun. If you aren’t getting daily sun exposure on a large area of your body for 10-15 minutes around midday – which let’s be honest, is not really feasible for many, particularly at this time of year – the treatment of choice for vitamin D deficiency is supplementation. Unfortunately, foods are not great sources of this important vitamin.
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred, active form of vitamin D. Safe and effective recommendations for vitamin D3 supplementation are 1,000 to 2000 IU/daily, and higher. Optimal vitamin D blood levels are well above 40 ng/mL. Ask your doctor to test for 25-hydroxy vitamin D to determine your levels. If you are below 40 ng/ml, you may want to discuss a higher dosage with your doctor.
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