Vitamin D Advice, Spring/Summer 2016 Newsletter
All humans need a good level of vitamin D for bone and other organ health. The source of vitamin D, how much vitamin D we need, and the potential benefits from vitamin D have, at times, been controversial.
The first controversy is the source of vitamin D. Should we receive our vitamin D through intentional, unprotected sun exposure? Or should we take an oral daily supplement? Increasing our intentional, unprotected sun exposure has been shown to positively increase the vitamin D levels in our body. Yet even Southern states report widespread low vitamin D levels in their residents. Unfortunately, UV radiation from the sun is a well-documented human carcinogen linked to an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Oral vitamin D supplements and ingestion of vitamin D fortified foods are non-carcinogenic. They have also been proven to be an effective approach in treating both deficiencies and insufficiencies of vitamin D. Oral vitamin D supplements have been shown to provide adequate amounts of vitamin D in humans even in winter months when sun exposure is minimal, and to darker skin peoples, whose skin color allows less ultraviolet light absorption to trigger vitamin D production. People with Crohn’s or celiac disease, obese people, people who take some types of anti-seizure medications or oral cortisone, and nursing babies may also have lower vitamin D levels. Very few foods contain enough vitamin D to satisfy the recommended daily allowance. Almost all experts, including the National Institute of Health, believe that the benefits of oral supplementation of vitamin D outweigh the risks of increased, unprotected sun exposure.
Below is a reprint of a table from the NIH website about recommended supplementation:
It has been known for decades that vitamin D is essential for bone health by primarily increasing the absorption of calcium. This is especially important as we age to help fight thinning bones called osteoporosis. In the past few years, the guidelines for recommended levels of vitamin D have increased. The new, higher levels of vitamin D have been shown in the elderly to benefit bone health, muscle strength, and balance. There are also new studies that show higher vitamin D levels (> 50nmol/L) may lower blood pressure, reduce mortality from some cancers, and potentially prevent some autoimmune diseases. Since there are many proven benefits to higher vitamin D levels and numerous plausible yet to be proven claims, increasing the intake of vitamin D to follow the new, higher recommended guidelines seems reasonable. Above a blood level of 125 nmol/L there can be some toxicity, although this is not common.
Most internal medicine doctors now include a test for vitamin D in their annual panel. If you haven’t ever had a test for this, now would be a good time! Make sure your vitamin D level is optimal, for you and your family’s best health. For more information visit: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/