With increasing regularity, Vitamin D has been a headline of many nutrition and dietitians healthy eating plan. A majority of the US population is Vitamin D deficient, or has a low normal reading. A low normal reading may be “normal,” but it is far from optimal. There are many roles Vitamin D plays, that many people are unaware of. Much of this information is coming from WebMD, which is an outstanding resource.
One of the biggest roles Vit. D plays is in helping promote calcium resorption into bones. Without Vit. D, bones are not able to absorb calcium, and therefore become soft and brittle. Especially in older age, deficiency can put someone at an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone breaks. Vitamin D has also been shown to help lower blood pressure, reduce risk of diabetes and heart attack, along with many other benefits.
A study at Boston University exposed hypertensive individuals to UVA and UVB rays to help increase their vitamin D production. Along with an increase of 100% in vitamin D levels, the patients blood pressure normalized. This was without any blood pressure regulating drugs at all, simply increasing vitamin D levels. Other studies published showed vitamin D as an important role in preventing the development or precancerous polyps, reducing the risk of falling in the elderly, and reducing the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
To help reap all of these benefits, it has been suggested that daily intake of vitamin D be 1000 IU, or international units. This may sound confusing, but most vitamin D supplements are labeled with international units. To give you some perspective, drinking 2 glasses of fortified milk will yield about 200 IU, while an egg yolk only about 25 IU. The most potent source of Vitamin D, however, is the sun! About 20 minutes of sun exposure on your hands and face can stimulate your body to produce the needed vitamin D. Keep in mind for northern climates that don’t see the sun for months at a time during the winter, this can be a challenge. So a supplement may be your only option.
One last thing to keep in mind. Vitamin D can build up in your body and become toxic. A classic example of too much of a good thing is a bad thing. The upper limit for vitamin D is about 2000 IU per day from food and supplements. The good news is you cannot overdose on vitamin D produced by your skin from sun exposure. But since it is a fat soluble vitamin and is stored in the body, a supplement and intake level above 2000IU can cause a build up and toxicity in your body, resulting in kidney stones, kidney damage, and muscle weakness.