Supplement Spotlight: Vitamin D, the super vitamin you don't get enough of

Sep 26, 2016 by Dr. Ronald Auer

Vitamin D has received increased attention in the medical community because of recent studies that highlight its importance in general health. Once thought to only be important for bone health and development, deficiency has been studied in association with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, infection and kidney disease. Vitamin D deficiency is an increasingly common finding among Americans. Over 75% of Americans are deficient!

Children are at an especially high risk for vitamin D deficiency because of their growing skeleton. Vitamin D deficiency in children or rickets, manifests with bowed legs, growth plate problems, weak bones and deformity in the skeleton. The disease only began to appear during the industrial revolution when people left the fields and went into the factories. Sunlight is the natural source of vitamin D along with certain foods like salmon, tuna, beef liver and eggs.

Unfortunately the normal American lifestyle is deficient in both sunlight and foods that contain vitamin D. Milk is fortified with vitamin D but recently milk consumption in the US has plummeted. Supplementation is key to keep your levels normal. Normal levels are not the same as optimal levels of nutrients. Normal typically translates to “prevents deficiency symptoms”. I prefer optimization.

According to the pediatric societies and the FDA, children should consume 400 IU of vitamin D3 daily. This is easily done with a chewable tablet once daily. Adults should consume between 1000-5000 IU daily depending on risk factors, sunlight exposure and body mass index. This can be done with a daily capsule. Obesity is a risk factor for low levels of vitamin D. People who have osteoporosis, take anti-seizure medication and acid reflux medication should also take higher doses. People who live in the northern part of the US are also at a higher risk of deficiency because of the lack of sunlight.

Ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s when you get depressed in the winter time and happy in the summer. Believe it or not, blue light therapy (simulates sunlight) is a treatment as well as vitamin D supplementation. This is because low vitamin D levels are correlated with depression symptoms. Vitamin D also plays a role in mood, inflammation, infections, chronic pain, osteoporosis, muscle health, sex hormones, diabetes and sleep. It truly is a super vitamin.

Even better news is that nearly every study has shown that correcting low vitamin D levels can improve your overall health. If you are unsure about how much to take ask your doctor to have a vitamin D level blood test. Then try for a target level between 40 and 60. Some studies even suggest higher levels, but for now try for an optimal level of 40-60. I take 5000 IU every other day in the summer and every day in the winter. Once you get your vitamin D levels optimal you’ll have sunny days ahead of you!

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