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What's the "Big D" about Vitamin D?

More and more health benefits are being declared about Vitamin D. It’s one of those nutrients that continues to unfold with more and more value. And for those of us wanting to live an optimally healthy life, that is a big deal!

 

Vitamin D Plays As Many Roles as Meryl Streep

Okay maybe not that many. Nearly every organ and cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, and scientists have likely only begun to understand the numerous physiological roles in which vitamin D is involved. A handful of...

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More and more health benefits are being declared about Vitamin D. It’s one of those nutrients that continues to unfold with more and more value. And for those of us wanting to live an optimally healthy life, that is a big deal!

 

Vitamin D Plays As Many Roles as Meryl Streep

Okay maybe not that many. Nearly every organ and cell in the body has a vitamin D receptor, and scientists have likely only begun to understand the numerous physiological roles in which vitamin D is involved. A handful of the key roles are:

 

Bone-us: It is estimated that vitamin D is involved in the regulation of up to 2,000 genes and is essential to maintaining a healthy skeletal system, mainly through its involvement in the regulation of calcium and phosphorous absorption.6

 

Impressive Immunity: Vitamin D has also been shown to regulate a variety of functions in the cells of the immune system.7 For instance, vitamin D inhibits monocyte production of pro-inflammatory cell signaling proteins associated with oxidative stress.7 

 

Long Live You: An impressive meta-analysis combined the results from multiple studies demonstrated that people who take vitamin D supplements for longer than three years have a lower risk of mortality.1 The data from the trials in which participants took either vitamin D supplements or a placebo, indicated that there is a functional relationship between vitamin D intake and life expectancy.1

 

How to Get Vitamin D: Food, Sun, or Supplements?

As a fat-soluble vitamin, dietary vitamin D is absorbed in the small intestine along with dietary fats. It is naturally occurring in very few foods like cod liver oil, swordfish, and salmon, with the majority coming from fortified foods such as milk and cereal products.2 This means you’d have to consume it daily, which may not be ideal for a variety of reasons.

 

Your body can make 90-100% of the D requirement from sunlight, given enough sun exposure. With today’s lifestyles, however, that can be extremely variable for several reasons besides just time of year and amount of time spent outdoors.4  And not only can the use of an SPF 30 sunscreen result in 95% inhibition of the production of vitamin D in the skin, people with dark skin, high in melanin pigment, do not produce vitamin D as efficiently as people with lighter skin.5

 

While sun exposure and diet alone may not provide enough vitamin D, dietary supplements provide a reliable option to ensure you are getting the Recommended Adequate Intake. Adults need 600 IU/day, as proposed by the Food and Nutrition Board, although many health professionals may recommend a higher intake.2 Like several other physiological processes, the body’s ability to produce vitamin D declines with age;8 therefore, for adults over 70 years of age the Recommended Adequate Intake is increased to 800 IU/day.2  The good news is that the pills are small and very affordable.

 

Stay tuned to science to see what other exciting benefits Vitamin D will offer!

 

References:

1.  Zheng, Y. et al. Meta-Analysis of Long-Term Vitamin D Supplementation on Overall Mortality. Plos One 8, UNSP e82109 (2013).

2.   Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. (National Academies Press (US), 2011). at <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56070/>

3.  Chen, T. C. et al. Factors that influence the cutaneous synthesis and dietary sources of vitamin D. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 460, 213–217 (2007).

4.  Holick, M. F. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 80, 1678S–88S (2004).

5.  Gebreegziabher, T. & Stoecker, B. J. Vitamin D insufficiency in a sunshine-sufficient area: Southern Ethiopia. Food Nutr. Bull. 34, 429–433 (2013).

6.  Holick, M. F. Evidence-based D-bate on health benefits of vitamin D revisited. Dermatoendocrinol. 4, 183–190 (2012).

7.  Aranow, C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. J. Investig. Med. 59, 881–886 (2011).

8.  MacLaughlin, J. & Holick, M. F. Aging decreases the capacity of human skin to produce vitamin D3. J. Clin. Invest. 76, 1536–1538 (1985).

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