Dr. Janea L. Rather: Are you getting enough vitamin D?
B.S., D.C, Silverthorne
Vitamin D: We make it on our skin from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. So why are so many of us deficient? There are several theories as to why as much as 50 percent of children and adults are vitamin D deficient. Inadequate sunlight (UVB) exposure, inappropriate absorption, and disorders of the liver or kidney have been linked to vitamin D deficiency. UVB radiation does not penetrate glass; so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor of 8 or more appear to block vitamin D-producing UV rays.
So, what happens if I’m low on Vitamin D?
Low vitamin D levels have been linked to rickets in children, causing bowing of the legs, osteomalacia in adults, which can lead to osteoporosis in later years, as the bones continue to lose calcium. Vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption, your immune system, and decreased levels can increase the risk of infection and the flu. Vitamin D levels also play a role in reducing the risk of some cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and can affect mood as well.
How much vitamin D do you need?
The recommended intake for vitamin D is 200 IU/day. How much is that? About two glasses of fortified milk or 15 minutes in the mid-day sun with shorts and a tank top. Not very realistic mid-November. Some studies are now saying that 200IU/d isn’t nearly enough and more than 400IU/d should be considered, with an upper limit of more than 2000 IU/d.
So, what can we do to ensure we get enough vitamin D?
Well, if you aren’t a fan of milk and you don’t fancy baring your all in the middle of winter on the chance it’s a sunny day, here are a few food suggestions with the IU per serving number listed after:
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon – 1,360
Mushrooms, enriched with vitamin D, 3 ounces – 400
Salmon, cooked, 3.5 ounces – 360
Tuna fish, canned in oil, 3 ounces – 200
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup – (check product labels) 142
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup – 98
Yogurt, fortified with 20 percent of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces – 80
Egg, 1 whole (vitamin D is found in yolk) – 20
To be honest, the thought of cod liver oil just doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. Maybe you aren’t a fan of mushrooms and if you are like me, you are allergic to salmon. So what does that leave? Tuna and orange juice. Breakfast of champions! There are alternatives if you are unable to increase your vitamin D levels through your diet. Vitamin D supplements containing Vitamin D-3 are available at most natural food stores. Be health conscious, read your labels, and as always consult your physician if you have any questions or health concerns.
For more information about Vitamin D or other nutrients, contact the Linus Pauling Institute web site at http://lpi.oregonstate.edu.
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