Research over the past decade has suggested that Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common in this country.  A national sample of almost 19,000 individuals found that between 1988 and 2004 the proportion of Americans with less than adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood fell from 45 percent to 23 percent over this period.

Traditional thinking was that vitamin D was mainly necessary for bone health.  Recent studies have shown that vitamin D performs a multitude of other functions in the human body. It may also be tied to cancer prevention, cardiovascular health and a potential connection with gum disease.

The Institute of Medicine 2011 Recommended Dietary Allowances for Vitamin D (and Calcium) for Adults notes a Recommended Daily Dose of Vitamin D of 600 international units (IUs) for women and men aged 19 to 70 years of age with an increase to 800 International Units for those same groups after 70 years of age.

These recommendations have remained stable to the present.  Additional research may lead to a modification in dosing, particularly for specific groups and/or condition.

Three major sources of vitamin D exist – sunshine, foods and supplements.
Although it might take only a few minutes of sun exposure every day to create enough vitamin D, it may not be recommended due to the risk of sun exposure and skin cancer.

Use of sunblock prevents vitamin D production.

Foods that provide vitamin D include fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna) which vary from 360 IUs for cooked salmon (3.5 ounces) to 200 IUs for canned tuna in oil (3 oz.).  Other dietary sources include milk, breakfast cereals, and some brands of orange juice fortified with vitamin D.  Cod liver oil is the best source of vitamin D as one tablespoonful contains 1,360 IUs (How many of us would actually be able to “stomach” this?).

 

Due to the increasing amount of research suggesting that vitamin D intake plays a far bigger role in overall health than previously believed, (a deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults and cancer to name a few) you may want to discuss the advisability of checking blood levels with your health care provider during your annual physical.

Based on these results, the need for supplemental vitamin D intake may be recommended by your physician.

For those desiring additional information a basic fact sheet which provides more complete information on Vitamin D is available at the following site:
https://ods.od.nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer.pdf 
Note on the Fact Sheet:   The information in the fact sheet should not take the place of medical advice. You are encouraged to talk to your health care providers (physician, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.

Mark Mahoney, Ph.D.,   has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for over 30 years and completed graduate studies in Public Health at Columbia University.  He can be reached at marqos69@hotmail.com.