How Important is Vitamin D?

It seems everywhere you look lately someone is warning about Vitamin D deficiency. How much Vitamin D do you need? How do you get enough? What are the risks if you are deficient? What is the defining level of Vitamin D deficiency? The issue is confusing, to say the least.

This recent renewed interest in Vitamin D levels has probably not been seen since it was first discovered to prevent and help treat Rickets. New research is now finding a possible link between low blood levels of Vitamin D and not only bone and muscle health, but certain cancers including colon, prostate and breast cancer. Other possible health risks include both Type I and Type II Diabetes, Hypertension, Multiple Sclerosis, Periodontal disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. But what are low blood levels of Vitamin D? Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends a blood concentration greater than 30ng/ml. Part of the confusion and panic in the media, stems from the fact that several studies are defining inadequate levels as higher than the level recommended by the NIH. Most of the panic has been presented as concern for the public, but has been pushed and funded by the tanning industry, as Vitamin D is made when the sun’s uv light hits the skin.

Over the years, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has successfully driven the message through to the public that sun exposure is carcinogenic, and leads to skin cancer development, sun damage and photo-aging. In an effort to try to regain some of the business lost by the AAD’s effort, the tanning industry has been trying to capitalize on the fear of Vitamin D deficiency and cancer development. What they usually fail to tell the public, is that Vitamin D can be obtained through a healthy diet, and/or Vitamin D supplements.
The NIH is currently recommending a diet including between 200IU to 400IU for most of the public. (For more details, please go to the NIH’s website.) Foods which have Vitamin D in them include Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna Fish, Margarine, Egg yolks, Liver, Beef, Cheese, fortified Cereals, and fortified Milk and dairy products. Supplements which also contain Vitamin D include Fish oil, Calcium, and of course Vitamin D itself.

Vitamin D levels are determined Vitamin D by a simple blood test which your doctor may order. Deficiencies may results from poor diet, sun avoidance and/or some disorders including Celiac Disease. If testing reveals a deficiency, further tests may be performed to determine the cause.