Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that exists in several forms, the most common being calciferol. Vitamin D is found in some foods, but is also produced by the body with help from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Vitamin D is most necessary to maintain the right level of phosphorus and calcium within the blood. Along with several other minerals, vitamins, and hormones, Vitamin D is needed to form and maintain strong, healthy bones that will not break nor become brittle. Vitamin D deficiencies may result in increased risks of hip and bone fractures, particularly in older women.
Another possible health benefit of Vitamin D being studied and researched through clinical trials is the promotion of a healthier immune system, and cancer prevention. Regarding the latter, there has been some concrete evidence that vitamin D may have the potential to protect the body from certain types of cancers such as colon cancer. However, more research is needed to determine if it is the increase of the vitamin that actually protects the cells from cancer, or whether instead it is a deficiency of Vitamin D that increases one’s cancer risk.
In the United States, Vitamin D deficiencies were rampant in the 1930s, prompting the government to implement a fortified milk program. Rickets, which is a weakening and softening of the bones, usually occurs in children suffering from a lack of Vitamin D, but is relatively unheard of in the U.S. since the advent of fortified foods. Osteomalacia is a condition that causes a weakening of the bones without an adequate supply of Vitamin D that affects adults, as well as the potential for osteoporosis.
Sources of Vitamin D
Sunlight: UV rays from the sun cause a process within the skin known as Vitamin D synthesis. The liver and kidneys are also vital to the absorption of Vitamin D as they both work to chemically convert it into its active form, the essential dihydroxyvitamin D.
10 to 15 minutes of daily sunlight exposure is an adequate amount. However, factors such as the time of day and year, clouds, pollution, and sunscreen all affect the absorption of Vitamin D.
Food: Foods that naturally contain Vitamin D include:
– Cod liver oil
– Eggs (yolks)
– Fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines)
– Liver (beef)
Some foods that are fortified with vitamin D include:
– Breakfast/snack bars
– Ice cream
– Pudding (made with fortified milk)
Recommended Daily Requirements
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D will vary depending upon a few factors, such as a person’s age, with the number of International Units (IUs) increasing as we grow older. The RDA refers to the amount of vitamins that are needed to meet all of the minimum requirements needed for good health.
Age 19 to 50 – 200 IUs daily
Age 51 to 69 – 400 IUs daily
Age 70 and over – 600 IUs daily
While getting the right amount of sun exposure and consuming fortified foods are usually enough to maintain a healthy level of Vitamin D, there are some groups of people who may still need a dietary supplement to meet the daily requirements.
Infants who are only fed breast milk may need a daily supplement of fortified formula during the first few months of life. Older adults, people who are homebound, or who have limited exposure to the sun, such as those living in the northern hemisphere, may need a dietary supplement to avoid a Vitamin D deficiency.
With all of the positive health benefits that come from Vitamin D, it is important to make sure we are regularly getting adequate amounts. Fortunately, in addition to the many supplements and numerous sources of fortified foods, getting enough of the “sunshine vitamin” is as easy as stepping outside on a nice, sunny day.
Article Source: Main Articles
Colin Albert manages the CalciumShop website. The site provides information about a new product called SolarCal, a natural supplement that offers coral calcium and Vitamin D to aid the body in maintaining optimal health.