Should Everyone Be Taking a Vitamin D Supplement? – Yahoo Health
But as much as he thinks supplements are essential, Holick also strongly advocates that they be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet that includes foods containing vitamin D and daily sun exposure. He has created an app called “dminder” that calculates a time for safe sun exposure for every individual, based on age, height and skin type, and determines how many international units (IUs) of vitamin D they’re making while outside.
Meanwhile, James Cioffi, MD, an internist with Community Care Physicians in Troy, New York, is unsure about supplements. He does not recommend them for every patient and he does not measure vitamin D levels “unless we’re worried about them.”
That said, he does say it’s not easy for most people to manufacture the requisite amount of vitamin D by sun exposure alone, although a diet that includes foods like meat and vitamin D-enriched milk can help, he says.
Ultimately, you should talk with your doctor before starting to take any supplements, including those for vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency isn’t always obvious.
Someone who tests as being deficient in vitamin D may exhibit no symptoms of deficiency at all. The symptoms can also be quite generic — tiredness and fatigue, joint and muscle pain, skin rashes, among others. However, doctors say there’s a link between serious, prolonged deficiencies and illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, and even autoimmune conditions.
Screenings are the best way to assess vitamin D levels and potential deficiencies but they are not commonplace because many insurance companies do not cover the expensive tests, says Cioffi.
According to Holick, vitamin D deficiency is a key contributor to many serious illnesses, and he believes that “you could potentially reduce health care costs by 25 percent by improving the vitamin D levels of the population.”
It’s possible to OD on vitamin D.
Today, with vitamin D front and center as a panacea for anything from healthy bones to healthy hair, many people are buying over-the-counter supplements without consulting their physicians — and in the long run, this could prove risky, Mehta says.
“Too much vitamin D can result in hypercalcemia, or too much calcium, which then causes excessive thirst and urination,” says Mehta. “If the calcium levels are not brought back to normal, calcium deposits can form in the heart, liver, and kidney, which can lead to serious organ damage.”
It’s important to underscore, though, that vitamin D toxicity can never happen as a result of excessive sun exposure, “as our body stops making it once we have adequate levels of vitamin D,” Mehta says. “We call this the negative feedback loop. However, most toxicity is caused by taking excessive amounts of supplements so I advise people not to take any supplements without consulting their physician.”
While some recent studies have shown that too much vitamin D could be dangerous, Holick notes that “vitamin D toxicity is one of the rarest medical conditions in the world and we have shown that even 10,000 units a day will not cause any harm to healthy adults.”
Vitamin D supplements don’t always work.
When Cioffi notes low levels of calcium and vitamin D in any of his patients, he typically puts them on supplements of both. But it’s often the case that “a couple of years later, when we re-test their vitamin D levels, we don’t see any change at all in their levels,” he says, “so it’s not clear that the supplements work.”
In fact, many people with low vitamin D levels who take supplements don’t, in Cioffi’s experience, bring those levels up to normal. “The supplements are, for the most part, over-the-counter and unregulated and they may not be absorbed well,” he says.
More importantly, “there are always issues with compliance: People will tell you that they take [the supplements] but actually they’re not and they just don’t want you to disapprove of them,” he says. “It’s a complex issue in which multiple factors are involved in and there are always variances that are difficult to account for.”
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