Depending on age and gender, 30 to 70 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. While most people don’t have any symptoms, some experience muscle pain or general muscle weakness.
Vitamin D improves muscle strength, bone health, immune function, and reduces inflammation. Scientists are just beginning to appreciate the importance of adequate levels of vitamin D. Current recommendations of 200 to 600 international units (IU) are woefully inadequate. A growing community of scientists is recommending 1,000 to 2,000 IU as a safe and necessary amount to ensure adequate blood levels for good health.
What can you do to get more vitamin D?
Sunshine is the best natural solution. In addition, supplements and dietary forms of vitamin D can help you maintain adequate levels. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are great sources; as is cod liver oil. For example, 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil provides 1360 IU Vitamin D and 3 ounces of Salmon (cooked) provides 447 IU Vitamin D. Foods which are fortified with vitamin D have lower quantities; for example, 8 ounces of milk and 8 ounces of orange juice provide 120 IU and 137 IU of Vitamin D, respectively.
Typically, I grimace when hearing about ‘cure-alls’. While not yet conclusive, vitamin D may confer health benefits for a broad range of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, depression, falls, and chronic pain. Vitamin D affects immunity, inflammation, cell growth and cell death – each are critical functions across the human system. As such, it comes as no surprise that some research has shown that Vitamin D decreases cancer cell growth and promotes death of cancer cells. Although far from conclusive, some studies have shown vitamin D reduces breast and colon cancer risk in humans.
Given the range of health issues vitamin D may affect, I recommend the following:
1. Obtain routine annual laboratory testing to ensure serum levels of vitamin D3 are adequate (30 ng/mL minimum, and ideally > 50 ng/mL).
2. Get 15 minutes of sunshine each day and, if necessary, use food sources or dietary supplements to reach adequate blood levels.