Vitamin D3 Benefits and New Guidelines
The Function of Vitamin D in the Body
Vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in some foods, and it is also manufactured within the human body when skin is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays. It is necessary for promoting calcium absorption, helps keep bones healthy, and prevents osteoporosis. Lack of vitamin D causes calcium depletion in the bones.
Sailors used to get rickets from a lack of vitamin D when on long sea journeys, but there is no reason for anyone to be low on vitamin D today.
How Much Vitamin D Is Required?
There is a growing consensus that people need higher vitamin D levels than had previously been recommended. For years, it was recommended that individuals under 50 years of age take 200 IU (International Units) daily, and those 50-70 years of age take 400 IU. Now, these dosages are considered too low. According to the National Institutes of Health, people should aim for 600 IU a day.
Years ago, there was much concern about fat-soluble vitamins building up in your system and causing negative effects, but at this time scientists can’t even agree on the exact amount an individual needs. They are not concerned about toxicity, although obviously, you would not take tablets by the handful.
A recent study showed that people who had vitamin D levels in the range of 1000 IU had excellent outcomes, especially for the elderly and for people with type II diabetes. However, you cannot eat enough vitamin D food sources to get to this level. There are some foods with vitamin D that you will see on the chart below, but the selection is limited unless you are really fond of cod liver oil.
Vitamin D Food Chart
IUs Per Serving
Percent Recommended Daily Intake
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces
Egg, 1 large
Vitamin D Deficiency Treatment
Treating vitamin D deficiency is quite simple. You can buy vitamin D3 pills over the counter, and you can take them combined with calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Doctors also prescribe vitamin D if your level is low, which typically would be a dosage of 50,000 IU once a week.
Quite often, a short course of the prescription will get you to a healthy level, and you may continue with over-the-counter D3. Researchers, of course, are not going to recommend you live your life in the sun for the sake of vitamin D levels due to the risk of skin cancer. Being out in the sun with lots of sunscreen is a smart way to avoid getting skin damage, but it won’t get your vitamin D levels high enough.
Osteoporosis (a disease that makes bones thin and brittle, thus causing fractures more easily) is certainly one of the main reasons for increasing your vitamin D level, but it will also help prevent fractures at any age. It will help bones grow strong and healthy. According to WebMD, if your level of vitamin D is too low, you won’t absorb the amount of necessary calcium to stay healthy, so post-menopausal women are at the highest risk for problems.
Autoimmune Diseases Require Higher Levels of Vitamin D
I don’t drink milk or eat any dairy products due to a medical lung problem, and yes I do miss cheese and ice cream. I quit drinking milk some years ago. Therefore, there are very few foods to eat that have vitamin D, but I do enjoy fish. I take a supplement, and the doctor periodically checks my blood level.
Healthcare professionals recommend that blood levels of vitamin D should be higher for people with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Doctors are checking vitamin D levels with routine lab work much more frequently now for many people, and if yours is not being checked, then ask.
Many people are taking vitamin D3 supplements, which are vitamin D3 tablets along with magnesium and calcium. This is a good way to ensure you are getting important protectors available in your bloodstream. Calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium have been shown in numerous studies to work well when taken together, and vitamin D is more effective when taken this way.
Vitamin D Helps Prevent Other Diseases
Another very important reason to be concerned about low intake of vitamin D is the correlation of low vitamin D with cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and possibly type II diabetes. There is a vast amount of ongoing research to determine the healthiest levels. I imagine there will be changing guidelines as researchers learn more about vitamin D.
Several studies have shown that a higher intake of vitamin D correlates with lower incidences of cancers, particularly colon and colorectal cancers.
Greater sun exposure has also been shown to reduce cancer deaths also.
The Importance of Vitamin D
I hope this article explains the importance of vitamin D and the problems with vitamin D deficiency. Also, most people are probably not getting enough vitamin D in their diet, particularly if they are post-menopausal or elderly.
Of course, vitamin D is important for growing children as their bones grow so rapidly. At least most children are milk drinkers, which is important, but children's vitamins are a good idea. We will be hearing more about this vitamin as new research is completed.
Do You Get Enough Vitamin D?
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© 2010 Pamela Oglesby