Thursday, January 19, 2012
Working at a nutritional supplement company has allowed me to start learning more and more about certain vitamins and minerals that support healthy bodies. One of the vitamins I am most interested in is VITAMIN D. It is a very important nutrient that, unless you take a supplement or spend lots of time in the sun, you will have a difficult time achieving sufficient levels through diet alone.
One of the most significant roles that vitamin D plays in the body is to aid in the absorption of calcium, which we all know is a key nutrient for bone health. Studies also show that there is a link between low blood levels of vitamin D and various cancers, cardiovascular disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and auto immune diseases. There are many benefits of vitamin D including improved neuromuscular function in the elderly, lower risk for rheumatoid arthritis, and aiding in the growth and development of the fetus during pregnancy.
It is estimated that at least one-third of Americans have low vitamin D levels. The greatest source of vitamin D, aside from supplements, is the sun. It is produced in response to UV exposure to our skin cells. It's possible to get enough vitamin D from the sunlight. However in many parts of North America, the rays are too weak in the winter months and, with increased sunscreen use to protect against skin cancer, plus the fact that we tend to spend more time indoors than out, it is difficult to achieve the amount of exposure we need to get adequate levels of vitamin D.
The only foods that are considered to be a good source of vitamin D are wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. A great deal of the farmed fish we typically eat contains about 1/4 the amount of vitamin D that wild-caught fish contains. Milk, which tends to be fortified with vitamin D (it does not naturally contain it) only contains about 100 IU (International Units) per 8 ounces.
The current RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) set by the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board is 600-800 IU, depending on age. The upper limit is set at 4,000 IU per day. You can see why many people, unless they take supplements, have a hard time achieving even the conservative RDA of 600-800 IU.
Now, I am not telling you to go out and start taking vitamin D supplements, but I do find the subject very interesting since this seems to be a very important nutrient that roughly 1/3 of us are lacking. I have started taking a multivitamin containing 2000 IU per day (among other nutrients important for young women) as an insurance policy against many of the diseases mentioned above.