Just last week the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements released a new Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals pertaining to Vitamin D dosages. This comes on the heels of two decades of continuous debate within the medical community about the advisable daily intake amount of Vitamin D. Debate on this is still going strong.
You may have heard that Vitamin D deficiency is alarmingly common in the United States.
This is true. Formerly we were a farming and agricultural centered society. That being the case: we naturally got our Vitamin D while tending gardens or working outside. Because modern society transitioned to city dwelling and indoor offices and manufacturing, this now means most of us don’t get the natural sunlight that our bodies need. Because we cannot produce Vitamin D on our own, if we can’t be outside to receive it from sunlight, the other option is through certain foods or supplements.
Part I of this blog discusses how your body makes Vitamin D, how to improve it, and how to identify the signs of deficiency related to low Vitamin D. Part II (to be released tomorrow) discusses how to easily check, improve, and monitor your Vitamin D levels as well as Vitamin D dosages.
Most people know we need Vitamin D for strong bones. However, Vitamin D is also important to build our immunities that help us avoid colds and flu.
Adequate Vitamin D also helps reduce inflammation and aids proper cellular functioning. It also has an enormously important role in healthy cell growth and limiting the overgrowth of cancer cells. This all means that quite literally everycell in your body needs access to Vitamin D to be healthy.
How sunlight helps your body manufacture Vitamin D
Your body cannot make Vitamin D on its own. There are two ways to get it:
Sunlight exposure and by consuming foods or supplements that contain Vitamin D dosages.
How Vitamin D is received through sunlight:
The pros and cons
When the UVB part of sun’s rays hits your skin this causes a chemical reaction which makes what is called D3. This D3 is processed in your liver and kidneys to make it into the type of Vitamin D which your body can use. If you wear sunscreen, the UVB is blocked UVB and this process will not ocurr.
This does not mean keep away from sunscreen—we all need to use it to avoid skin cancer. However, as you’ll see noted below, it is difficult to eat enough of the foods that contain Vitamin D to get our daily necessary dose. That being the case, you may want to consider having limited sun exposure on certain areas of your body which normally are not exposed to the sun. As a matter of daily life, our faces, forearms and chest typically get the most sun exposure, but in as little as 10 minutes a day, some sun on your legs or back can give you your daily dose of Vitamin D without huge risk. If you have very fair skin it is advisable to do this before 10AM or after 2PM.
Please Note: if you have darker skin, you probably do need to be taking a Vitamin D supplement regularly. The darker your skin is, the less the UVB rays are processed in your skin. It is estimated that over 90% of nonwhite populations are at risk of reduced Vitamin D production, simply due to their skin pigmentation.1
Foods that Contain Vitamin D
Vitamin D is found in surprisingly few foods and generally in very small quantities in those foods. The highest Vitamin D level is found in cod liver oil. The next highest amounts are found in fatty fishes such as sockeye salmon, swordfish and tuna fish. The smallest naturally occurring amounts of Vitamin D are found in beef, liver, and egg yolks.
In the 1930s it became standard to enrich milk
with Vitamin D in order to prevent the childhood disease called rickets. Milk and infant formulas are still Vitamin D enriched in both the U.S. and Canada.2 Many products such as breakfast cereals, yogurt and orange juice also have Vitamin D added.
The thing about foods that contain Vitamin D is that it is very hard to consume enough of those foods to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D.
VITAMIN D CONTAINING FOODS IUs PER SERVING
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon ** 1360
Cooked swordfish, 3 ounces cooked 566
Sockeye salmon, 3 ounces cooked 447
Tuna fish, canned in water 3 ounces 154
Orange juice, 1 cup 137
Milk nonfat, reduced fat, whole & Vitamin D fortified 1 cup 115-124
Egg, 1 large (Vitamin D contained in the yolk) 41
Ready-to-eat cereals, 1 cup 40
Swiss cheese, 1 ounce 6
** Please note the Harvard Medical School article Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopesstates that cod liver oil should not be taken daily because it has high levels of Vitamin, A which can be toxic.3, 4
What happens if you don’t have enough Vitamin D?
Too little Vitamin D in your body greatly increases the possibility of bone fractures and even osteoporosis. Studies indicate that lack of Vitamin D leads to higher rates of hip or back fractures.
Many people think Vitamin D is more important for women because women are more prone to osteoporosis; however, a connection to prostate cancer has been found in men who do not get enough Vitamin D. As I mentioned earlier, Vitamin D is necessary for healthy cell growth and preventing overgrowth or abnormal growth like that of cancer cells. The tissue of the prostate is at higher risk for overgrowth especially in people with low levels of Vitamin D.
In general, risks of colon, breast and other types of cancers are higher in populations which are farther from the equator. It is proposed that less sun exposure and thus lower Vitamin D levels may be part of why this occurs.5
This concludes Part I of Vitamin D Dosages~New Considerations. Stay tuned for Part II about recommendations for Vitamin D dosages and best ways to monitor your levels to be both safe and healthy!
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We encourage you to become fully informed from multiple reliable sources about all health related topics and/or practices or products discussed on this blog. Please consult a team of licensed and trusted health care professionals before making health related decisions for yourself, family or loved ones. The information here is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.
1Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/vitamin-d-and-your-health-breaking-old-rules-raising-new-hopes
2National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
4Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. Vitamin D and your health: Breaking old rules, raising new hopes. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/vitamin-d-and-your-health-breaking-old-rules-raising-new-hopes