Vitamin D is all the rage these days… You hear about it in the news all the time. Everyone seems to be talking about it as the wonder supplement. And in many ways, it is. Yet, a recent New York Times article talked about all the perils of taking Vitamin D.
So what do you need to know about taking the right amount of Vitamin D?
It turns out Vitamin D is pretty darn important. In fact, it is so important that this will be a multi-part blog post.
We have known for years that Vitamin D is essential for bone health and development. The disease known as Rickets is due to profound Vitamin D deficiency in childhood. People used to get bowed legs from poor bone growth. Luckily, due to the advent of fortified milk, this condition is now rare.
However, milder forms of Vitamin D deficiency are rampant.
Vitamin D deficiency may cause bone problems and other symptoms. Without adequate Vitamin D, we do not absorb and metabolize Calcium properly and our bones can lose density. Therefore, inadequate Vitamin D levels contribute to Osteoporosis and the resultant fractures. It is essential to bone development and the prevention of bone loss that we have enough Vitamin D.
Bone development peaks in our mid-30s, so getting essential amounts of this nutrient in our younger years is essential. However, it’s importance continues after bone density peaks and then starts to decline. Adequate Vitamin D levels aids bones in maintaining their strength.
But wait, there is more to Vitamin D and its many roles in our bodies…
Muscles, too, rely of Vitamin D to function optimally. People with inadequate Vitamin D levels do not have the same muscle strength as those who have enough. Elderly people with low Vitamin D levels are much more prone to falls. It is believed that younger people benefit from adequate Vitamin D levels as well for both muscle building and general muscle health. Many people report they have less tendency to strain muscles and tendons once they achieve optimal levels of Vitamin D.
When it comes to the taking of Vitamin D it turns out that many or most of us need to.
Where does Vitamin D come from? Very few natural foods contain it. The only foods that contain it in significant amounts are wild caught salmon (not farm raised, as most salmon are that we eat) and beef liver. Many foods are fortified with low levels of Vitamin D, such as milk, yogurt and some orange juices. However, a glass of mild has only about 100 IUs of Vitamin D, which is a small fraction of the approximate 1000 IUs we believe most of us need.
To obtain Vitamin D from the sun, we have to have direct sun exposure and not be wearing protective clothing or sun screen (this may be ill-advised for skin cancer prevention). We absorb the Vitamin D through our skin, but we must then metabolize it in our liver and kidneys (both must function optimally for this) to its active form. Complicated, yes?
Long story short, very few of us are managing to do all of this enough in order to get what we need. Therefore most of us should be taking some for of Vitamin D supplement. How much to take varies depending on your individual health history and lifestyle. For example, those who don’t absorb as much through diet (those with Celiac or Inflammatory Bowel Disease) or via the sun (those in Northern Latitudes) may need more than others. Most daily supplement recommendations range from 400 to 2000 international units.
But not just any Vitamin D supplement will do…
You must get a quality supplement that contains not just Vitamin D, but Vitamin D₃. This is the vitamin’s most active form. Unconverted Vitamin D is less active, requiring more steps to metabolize it and is less likely to raise blood levels significantly.
Find out how much Vitamin D you should take based on your needs…
It is also essential you get the correct amount for your needs. This can be determined by your doctor, measuring blood levels or either of those combined with an analysis of your diet and health habits (Take our brief survey to get your ideal amount in a Personalized Multivitamin).
What happens if I take too much Vitamin D?
There has been recent data suggesting that both too little and too much Vitamin D can have detrimental effects. Some studies showed higher rates of cancer with higher blood levels. There may also be an increase in inflammatory markers such as C-Reactive Protein at higher blood levels. Physical symptoms of toxic levels are rare, but possible. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is stored in your body fat and therefore takes a long time to leave your system once it builds up. It also can take 6-12 months to appropriately build up Vitamin D stores. Slow and steady wins the race!
The story does not end here… There is much much more to Vitamin D, both its benefits and its perils. It influences the immune system, rates of diabetes, cancer and everything in between. Stay tuned for more updates on Vitamin D and its many benefits…
Arielle Levitan is a doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three active adolescents. Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three elementary age boys. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that women, in their many roles, often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each woman is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide women everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.