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Vitamin D, Are You Getting Enough?
As we leave the long days of summer, many people living in northern latitudes risk having insufficient vitamin D levels.
Hardly a day goes by without a new study revealing one of the many benefits of vitamin D. While our bodies do manufacture vitamin D on exposure to sunshine, the levels in some northern countries like Canada during the autumn and winter months are too weak to maintain healthy levels.
Wearing sunscreen blocks much of the vitamin D that we derive from the sun in warmer months, so during spring and summer dietary supplements are quite possibly also the safest way to boost one’s level of vitamin D.
Cutting edge nutrition research soundly supports maintaining adequate levels. Deficiency of the sunshine vitamin may cause or worsen bone issues such as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Low levels are linked to both muscle weakness, risk of falls and bone fractures.
It is fully understood that vitamin D is critical to the health of our bones and teeth. Vitamin D, together with other nutrients and hormones in your body, support healthy bone renewal. Never forget that your bone health is dependent on a dynamic process of remodeling. Most people think of calcium when they think of strong bones. But vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones as well. When vitamin D levels are deficient, the result is rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis, meaning soft or porous bones in adults. We must have a serum level of at least 75nmol/liter to govern the process of bone remodeling.
But the health of our bones is only one of the benefits of getting adequate vitamin D. Low levels have also been linked to higher risk of common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
A Harvard School of Public Health study reported a link between vitamin D levels and the risk of heart attacks. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that a doubling of blood levels of vitamin D was associated with having half the risk of a heart attack (myocardial infarction). The vitamin has been linked to a broad range of cardiovascular benefits including a reduced risk of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and a reduced risk of stroke.
Low vitamin D levels have even been linked to increased risk of dying, no matter what the cause. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, NHANES III examined vitamin D status and all cause mortality and found that those individuals who were in the lowest quartile of vitamin D status were 26% more likely to die.
Although a consensus regarding the optimal level of serum 25(OH)D has not yet been established, most experts define vitamin D deficiency as a 25(OH)D level of < 50 nmol/liter and vitamin D insufficiency as 51-79nmol/liter. For all studied end points to date, the optimal concentration of 25(OH)D is at least 80nmol/liter.
If testing your level isn’t convenient, maintaining adequate levels typically requires an intake of at least 1000 IU of cholecalciferol or vitamin D3 daily for adults and 400 IU in children.
Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD; Yan Liu, MS; Bruce W. Hollis, MD, PhD; Eric B. Rimm, ScD; Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(11):1174-1180. 5-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men
Michal L. Melamed; Paul Muntner; Erin D. Michos; Jaime Uribarri; Collin Weber; Jyotirmay Sharma; Paolo Raggi; Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Prevalence of Peripheral Arterial Disease Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2008;28:1179
Michal L. Melamed, MD, MHS; Erin D. Michos, MD, MHS; Wendy Post, MD, MS; Brad Astor, PhD 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels and the Risk of Mortality in the General Population Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(15):1629-1637.
L.M. Hall, M.G. Kimlin, P.A. Aronov, B.D. Hammock, J.R. Slusser, L.R. Woodhouse, C.B. Stephensen Journal of Nutrition Vol. 140, No. 3, 542-550, March 2010 “Vitamin D Intake Needed to Maintain Target Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations in Participants with Low Sun Exposure and Dark Skin Pigmentation Is Substantially Higher Than Current Recommendations”