The Importance of Vitamin D: Welcome to our second blog. This post is very important to everyone interested in good health, so please read on and share with family and friends. It has been said that Vitamin D is shaping up to be the nutrient of the year, if not the decade. It’s all over the news, more people are experiencing deficiencies and many people seem to be confused about what they should do. So let’s review the ABCs of Vitamin D so that you can make the best choices for great health.
1: What is Vitamin D?Vitamin D is a group of prohormones, a prohormone has no hormone activity itself, but is converted ( in this case by the liver and kidneys) to the active hormone 1/25 (OH) 2D3 the most active form of Vitamin D which is essential of good health.
2: Where does Vitamin D come from? Vitamin D in nature always requires the presence of UV rays from the sun. See the sun in small amounts is vital to good health. A compound in our skin (7-dehydrocholesterol) is converted to pre Vitamin D by UVB rays from the sun, which in turn passes thru the liver and kidneys to become the all important Active Vitamin D that new research has shown our bodies crave and needs to be healthy. The rays of the sun only start this vital chain reaction to produce activeVitamin D when the rays are strong ( a UV index greater than 3). So for example, here in New Jersey the suns rays are not strong enough to produce active Vitamin D from roughly mid fall to mid spring. Those who live in the northern hemisphere at a latitude above 35 – 40 degees from October to May or those in the southern hemisphere below 35 – 40 degrees from May to October are at risk for low Vitamin D production. Also, UV blocking sunscreens prevent the needed rays from production of active Vitamin D, patients in Florida for example where to sun is strong enough year round to produce active Vitamin D are turning up with ever increasingVitamin D deficiencies, a little time in the sun without using UV blocking sunscreen is important to maintain adequate levels of active Vitamin D. One other important point is that our bodies can stockpile a significant supply of active Vitamin D when regularly exposed to adequate levels of sun light, so as my grand mother would say, “come and get it while the getting is good”. This is especially important if you live where the strength of the sun changes with the seasons, like here in New Jersey. One good exposure to strong sunlight can produce over 10,000IU of active Vitamin D!
3: Can I get Vitamin D in my diet? The answer is a resounding YES! Natural sources of Vitamin D are 1, Fatty fishes such as Salmon and Tuna, 2, Whole egg, 3, Animal and fish liver, 4, Fortified foods with milk ( except for skim ) being the most common and 5, Supplementation which is one of the best ways to maintain optimum levels of Vitamin D.
4: How much Vitamin D do I need everyday? Adequate intake of Vitamin D has been defined as 200IU daily for ages infant to 50, 400IU daily for ages 51 to 70, and 600IU daily over 70. New research however is challenging these outdated standards, and supports an optimal intake of 1000IUdaily. The NIH has set the safe upper limit at 2000IU daily, with the Institute of Health/Medicine to issue new guidelines spring 2010. Stay tuned as we will provide updates as they become available.
5: Are all Vitamin D supplements the same? The answer is NO! The 2 major forms of Vitamin D are; 1, Vit D2 ergocalciferol, and 2, Vit D3 Cholecalciferol. New research has shown that Vit D3 is the most bioavailable, so that is the form of choice to supplement with. When taking any nutritional supplement it is buyer beware. Nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA like pharmaceuticals are so not all are what they should be. Only use supplements that come for a company that provides independent quality testing. We maintain a list of companies who adhere to the highest standards, and whose products you can trust to deliver what you need.
6: How do I check for my level of Vitamin D? Currently the best way to test your levels of Vitamin D is a simple blood test to measure for 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Simply ask your health care provider about information about this vital test, and get it done!
7: What is the optimal level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D? New research has set the optimal health level at 50 to 60 ng/ml. For most adults, supplementation with 1000IU of Vit D3 will maintain optimal levels for greater health.
8: So Why is Vitamin D important to my Health? Good question! The latest research supports an ever growing list of vital bodily functions that Vitamin D helps maintain in good health. Here is a short list: 1, Bone Health; normal bone density and strength, 2, Muscular Strength; improved performance, 3, Cancer; helps regulate normal cell growth, deficiency linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers, but we think that list will grow, 4, Cardiovascular Disease; deficiency linked to inflammation of arteries and heart attacks, 5, Autoimmune Diseases; deficiency linked to weakened immune system and increase rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and type 1 diabetes, and 6, Cognitive Function; deficiency linked to depression and reduced brain function. We think this list will grow rapidly this year with all the research studies underway.
Lastly, Vitamin D deficiency explains much of what I have clinically observed in my practice the past 20 years. Ever wonder why you feel better when the sun shines? Go soak up some sun, make some Vitamin D, and if the sun don’t shine, take a quality supplement and you will enjoy better health!
Our next blog will feature 5 simple things to improve your health in the New Year and beyond.