Vitamin D for Healthy Bones and Beyond Nutrition

Getting adequate vitamin D is essential for children, who need it to build strong bones, and for adults who need it to keep their bones strong and healthy.  Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting your bones, and your body requires it to absorb calcium.  The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended vitamin D supplementation for the prevention of falls in the elderly (i.e. individuals age 65 and older).  If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you may lose bone and become more likely to break bones as you age.  You can get vitamin D in two ways: 1) from sun exposure and; 2) from the diet.  Vitamin D is hard to obtain from adequate sun exposure for many individuals who work in doors, live in higher latitudes and for those who have a darker complexion (e.g. African Americans).  A darker complexion naturally blocks the sun’s rays and thus decreases the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin.  Its also very hard to obtain from the diet; almost no one in the United States obtains recommended levels of vitamin D from the diet according to my newly published research (click here).  This research also shows that low-income, over-weight and/or obese individuals, as well as African American and Mexican-American populations may be at an increased risk for insufficiency.  Good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, fish liver oil, UV treated mushrooms, and fortified milk.  Fortified milk contains about 100 IU of vitamin D per 8 oz. glass.  Most individuals who work in doors should consider a taking a vitamin D supplement.  I recommend and personally take 1000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.  This level should also be safe for teenagers and children (small children could get by with 500-600 IU).  Vitamin D3 is the more active form.  Beware of some supplements that contain vitamin D2, as it is the less active form.  Also remember to check the “Supplement Facts Panel” on the back of all of your products.  Many products like multivitamins and calcium supplements also contain vitamin D.  The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends that consumers not exceed 4000 IU daily from food intake (you can’t OD on vitamin D from sunlight exposure).  Remember that more is not always better.  Try to obtain but not exceed your target amount of vitamin D.


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