What is Vitamin D?
• Although called a “vitamin”, this important element of health is actually a potent hormone that affects over 2,000 genes and at least 36 organs of the body.
• We get most of our Vitamin D from sunshine and a smaller amount from foods such as fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products.
Why is it important?
• Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a myriad of common diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer ’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, migraines, asthma, and autoimmune diseases.
• Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with muscle weakness and pain and an increased risk of falls in the elderly populations.
Why are we deficient?
• Because we have been told to either stay out of the sun or cover ourselves with clothing and/or sunscreen and because we are spending more time indoors in front of electronics, Vitamin D deficiency is widespread, even here in sunny Florida. Ironically, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of a specific type of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma).
• Even those who spend uncovered time in the sun can be deficient because as we age, our skin is not as efficient at converting sunshine into vitamin D.
• I have found that 30% of my patients have deficient levels (less than 30) and 10% have severely low levels (less than 20).
How do you know if you are deficient?
• You can have your Vitamin D level checked with an inexpensive blood test (25-OH Vitamin D)
• Studies have shown a decrease in prevalence of some cancers, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and fractures when Vitamin D levels are in the range of 55.
• Studies have shown that healthy adults who get plenty of sunshine can naturally attain Vitamin D levels up to 65 in the absence of supplements. Well-designed research studies are still needed to determine the optimal levels of Vitamin D. At this time, I recommend a level of 50-65.
What to do about it?
• Get approximately 15-20 minutes of sunshine each day without sunscreen. If your Vitamin D blood level is not optimal with sunshine alone, I would recommend taking a Vitamin D supplement.
• DO NOT take doses higher than 2,000IU unless you have your levels checked? Excess intake of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D can increase to toxic levels.
• If you are not going to have your level checked, I recommend taking Vitamin D3 2,000 IU daily. Make sure it is Vitamin D3 (aka cholecalciferol) not Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).