Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for human functioning providing great health benefits. Many people, from younger to older adults, fall short of the required amount for optimal health. Research links it to numerous health benefits and studies show its potential benefits but it is necessary to learn how and where to get proper vitamin D to boost immunity and overall health.
Why Vitamin D Matters
Vitamin D is unique as vitamins go as it is a hormone the body can make from the sun. An estimated 40%-75% of people are deficient in getting enough vitamin D from food and the sun as the sun itself is not a reliable source for every person. Vitamin D plays a vital role in some foods such as milk, yoghurt, cereal and orange juice. Together with calcium, Vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis in older adults. Without enough vitamin D, bones can become brittle and prone to fracture. More than 40 million adults are estimated in the United States to have or are at risk of developing osteoporosis.
Getting Enough Vitamin D
Bone health is very important, especially as people age. Vitamin D recommendations go up to 600 IU/day up to age 69 and 800 IU/day for adults starting at age 70. Older adults need more vitamin D with age as the skin does not produce enough vitamin D efficiently, less time is spent outdoors and there is a tendency to not get enough vitamin D.
Best Sources of Vitamin D
The sun is ultimately the best source of vitamin D, but it is hard to quantify how much is received from the sun along with the risk of skin cancer. Some believe risks of skin cancer outweigh perceived benefits. Food is a secondary source of vitamin D. Supplements can fill in the gaps where nutrition falls short but it is always better to meet a body’s needs with the following in mind:
- Choose foods with fortified dairy
- Select yoghurts with vitamin D
- Some cereals have vitamin D
- Look for Daily Values (DVs) of vitamin D set by the FDA currently at 400 IU/day but 600 IU/day is recommended most frequently. (note that when one serving says it meets 100% of DV, a person still needs an additional 200 IU to satisfy daily requirements).
Too Much of a Good Thing
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. Fat-soluble vitamins build up in the body and are not as easily excreted as water-soluble vitamins. The upper limit for vitamin D has been doubled to 4,000 IUs per day although this is considered a conservative figure. Some estimate upper limits should go as high as 10,000 IU/day. Few people need more than 4,000 IU/day which will meet the needs of most people in a safe manner. Vitamin D levels can be tested in the blood by a healthcare provider to make sure enough is getting produced.
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