Vitamin D has long been recognized as a nutrient essential to overall health. Only now, however, are researchers fully appreciating both its significance to a number of organ systems and the consumption levels required for us to benefit fully. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation raised its daily recommendations of Vitamin D intake to 800-1000 units for adults 50 and older. Previously, the organization had suggested 400-800 units for people of all ages.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining bone and mineral balance. It sends a message to intestines to absorb calcium, and numerous studies have shown that adequate intake can contribute to strong bones that are less likely to break in a fall.
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For many recommended vitamins and nutrients, a balanced diet is the best way to acquire recommended amounts of Vitamin D. Yet consuming recommended levels of Vitamin D can be tricky for even the most health-conscious diner.
Food. Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods – the most famous among them being cod liver oil. (Just one tablespoon provides 1360 units of the vitamin.) While that’s not a palatable option for most of us, you can get Vitamin D from saltwater fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It’s also present in egg yolks and beef liver. A number of foods, notably milk and certain juices and breakfast cereals, are fortified with Vitamin D – check the labels to see just how much you’re getting.
Sunlight. Our bodies are capable of synthesizing Vitamin D in the skin when exposed to direct sunlight – unprotected by layers of clothing or SPF. Some experts recommend about 10 minutes several times a week. But even that amount of time is impractical for those who are homebound or live in harsh climates. Furthermore, sunlight in the fall and winter is inadequate as a Vitamin D source for those who live north of the 37th parallel (the souther boundary of Kansas, Colorado and Utah; the northern boundary of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona) because the angle of the Earth at that time diminishes the crucial UVB rays penetrating the atmosphere.
Supplements. This is considered the most reliable way to ensure you are receiving the exact quantities recommended by your doctor. Supplements are especially recommended for those who suffer from milk allergies, lactose intolerance. Strict vegetarians may also require Vitamin D supplements. For these reasons, for many people, taking a daily supplement may be the best way to guarantee the recommended intake of Vitamin D. Most multivitamins contain some Vitamin D, but ask your doctor if you might need a separate supplement.
Published On: May 14, 2007