How much of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D3, do we need to maintain optimum health?
The major biological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. It promotes bone mineralization in concert with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones.
For many years 400 international units per day was the recommended dose. That is the amount necessary to prevent rickets.
New research is showing that taking 4000 international units for adults per day reduces by half the risk of several diseases—breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. Recommended dosage for children under five years is 35 units per pound per day; for children ages 5 to 10 years the level is 2500 units per day.
For preventing these major vitamin D deficiency related diseases, scientists actively working on vitamin D research now believe that blood concentration levels of 40 to 60 ng/ml, and not the previously suggested level of 20 ng/ml, is the appropriate target concentration of 25-vitamin D.
Unfortunately, only about 10% of the US population has levels in this 40 to 60 ng/ml range.
It appears that our collective vitamin D deficiency affects our health, and thus our health care costs, in a big way.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with insulin deficiency and insulin resistance. Sixty percent of people with Type 2 diabetes have a vitamin D deficiency and this lack of vitamin D is likely to be a major factor for the development of type one diabetes in children.
Clinical studies show that vitamin D deficiency is associated with the four most common cancers—breast, prostate, colon, and skin. Obesity, as well as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fatigue, depression, seasonal affective disorder, and the flu, is linked to vitamin D deficiency.
If you live above 30 degrees north latitude or below 30 degrees south latitude, you more than likely don’t have enough sunlight hours per year to main the ideal blood level of 60 ng/ml of 25 OH-D. The only way to know your vitamin D levels is to test your blood. You might need 4-5 times the recommended 4000 international units per day. If you live in the low vitamin D zones testing every six months is recommended.
The best way to raise your vitamin D level is not with supplements, but by exposing your bare skin to sunshine for about 30 minutes a day. However, getting sun exposure is not always practical or even feasible, depending on where you live. In the United States, the late winter average vitamin D level is only about 15-18 ng/ml, which is considered a very serious level of deficiency. No wonder the flu hits us hard in the winter when our vitamin D levels are low.
Luckily for our budgets, vitamin D tablets cost around a nickel a piece, or about a dollar and a half a month. A vitamin D test runs between $50 to $75.
The discovered benefits of vitamin D in the past few years may hold a big key to our immediate and long-term health.
Let the sunshine in and if you don’t have sunshine, let vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, into your daily diet.