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The Vitamin D Story

Posted Mar 26 2011 9:30pm
This “Feed Between the Lines” post is sponsored by Eggland’s Best.


It’s been raining for what feels like two weeks straight.  That meant a wet ten mile training run last weekend.  I know I should not complain with all that is happening in the world but really, just a quick break would be nice.  Truthfully, that break is coming soon as the forecast is calling for sunshine next week and the hills are so incredibly green right now.  I just need to hang on a few more days.

What I have found interesting is that one of the most common phrase I’ve heard over the last few days, regardless of who is speaking is: “I need the sunshine!  I need some Vitamin D!”  Virtually everyone is aware of Vitamin D.  With its recent popularity in the media, recent changes made to the recommended daily allowance, and more and more research attempting to tie deficiencies to everything from Autism to Cancer, Vitamin D has become a popular topic.  But how much do you really know about Vitamin D?


The Background: Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because of the body’s ability to produce the active form from the sun.  Your skin reacts with UVB rays to synthesize Vitamin D3.  However, different skin pigments, distance from the equator, age, sunscreen use and amount of time spent in the sun can all effect the amount of Vitamin D you actually synthesize.   


Why is Vitamin D Important?:  Vitamin D and Calcium are best friends and both are necessary for bone health.  Calcium needs Vitamin D for proper absorption.  Adequate levels of Vitamin D actually improve the absorption of calcium in the gut and help to improve bone mineral density.  The fortification of such food products as eggs and milk was established as a response to rises in Vitamin D deficiencies in the US population as even though we can make Vitamin D many of us are still deficient!

Many other potential benefits to Vitamin D have or are currently being studied including a relationship between deficiencies and risks for some cancers, immunity and autoimmune diseases, autism, heart disease, fatigue, diabetes, and muscle strength.  Receptors for Vitamin D have been found in over 30 organs including bone, intestine, kidney, lung, muscle, and skin.  This makes nutrition scientists question the high levels of deficiency in the US and the effect it may have all over the body.  Results are mixed but still being actively investigated.


How much do I need?: In 2010 new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) were released for Vitamin D.  As results are still mixed about all the potential roles Vitamin D plays in the body, these recommendations were justified based on “a strong body of evidence from rigorous testing (about the) importance of vitamin D and calcium in promoting bone growth and maintenance."   You can read the IOM brief and details about the DRI’s by clicking here .

The Vitamin D RDA for healthy people aged 1 – 70 is 600 IU/day.  The RDA increases to 800 IU/day for adults older than 70.


Food Sources of Vitamin D:  As many of us (even in California) are not spending nearly enough time in the sun during the late fall to spring months, additional sources of Vitamin D becomes necessary.  Dietary Vitamin D is primarily found in animal-based foods like saltwater fish and foods that have been fortified such as milk and eggs.  For example, an ideal Vitamin D rich breakfast might include:

This can provide you with almost 1/3 of your daily need for Vitamin D.  Just make sure to include the egg yolk as it is the part of the egg that has been fortified.  Yes I know yolks have been given a bad rap but there are all kinds of important vitamins and minerals (in addition to Vitamin D) that are found only in the yolk.   


If you believe you may be Vitamin D deficient, or even if you aren’t sure, getting your levels checked at your next check-up is always a good idea.  You may be surprised at your results.  And while supplementation may be necessary for some, I always promote getting your vitamins straight from the source whenever possible.


Question: Where do you get your sources of Vitamin D?  Have you ever had your Vitamin D levels tested?

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