Here’s the attention-grabbing headline that broke the news to readers: “Three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin whose deficits are increasingly blamed for all sorts of medical issues.” Scientific American; Archives of Internal Medicine. March 2009
That’s a shocking statistic—even for those who conducted this recent study. In fact, the study’s co-author, Adit Ginde, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine says, “We were anticipating that there would be some decline in overall vitamin D levels, but the magnitude of the decline in a relatively short time period was surprising.”
Here’s how the decline has progressed. Between 1988 and 1994, almost half of those examined had 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) or more of vitamin D—the blood level a growing number of doctors believe is sufficient for overall health. Just a decade later, not even a quarter of those examined had at least that amount.
And a vitamin D deficiency in that many people may have far-reaching impact. Here’s what one expert has to say about vitamin D’s positive effects:
“Vitamin D supports immune system, pancreas, heart, blood, cellular, muscle, bone and bone marrow, breast, colon, intestine, kidney, lung, prostate, retina, skin, stomach, uterine and brain health—and can [positively] impact 36 bodily organs.”† Anthony Norman, Emeritus, Presidential Chair, and Distinguished Professor Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biochemistry, University of California Riverside
Wow. That’s an impressive list for this essential nutrient. It makes sense, though, because over 900 genes and several areas of the body have vitamin D receptors or proteins that bind to vitamin D.† Studies show positive health effects happen when vitamin D binds to these receptors.†
Not everyone agrees on the number of people believed to be vitamin D deficient, however. Some don’t even concur on how much vitamin D per day a person should have—as that varies with a person’s age, geographical location and other circumstances.
Here’s what some leaders in vitamin D research have to say about intake amounts—although the only way to be sure of your vitamin D levels is through testing, which most agree is a smart choice:
“The consensus among UC [University of California] scientists…is that 2,000IU per day of vitamin D3, a form of vitamin D, is the appropriate intake for most adult Americans.† While more research on this topic is highly desirable, it should not delay recommending a 2,000IU daily intake of vitamin D for most people.”† Anthony Norman, Emeritus, Presidential Chair, and Distinguished Professor Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biochemistry, University of California Riverside
“The average person needs about 4,000 units daily of vitamin D to maintain a healthy level in their bodies.” Dr. Robert Heaney, M.D., FACP, FACN, Member, American Dietetic Association Elected Fellow, American College of Nutrition Emeritus Board Member, National Osteoporosis Foundation, Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine Osteoporosis Research Center Creighton University Medical Center
“The current recommendation for vitamin D deficiency in those people who must avoid the sun is 5,000IU of vitamin D per day which costs about five cents a day.”† Jeffrey Dach, M.D., board certified in Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology & the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine in Hollywood, Florida
That’s much more than the current recommended vitamin D intake of 400IU to 600IU for children and adults.† Getting too much vitamin D is rarely an issue, though, says one highly regarded expert. Dr. Michael Holick, the leading authority on vitamin D. He says you’d have to take more than 10,000IU daily for many days or weeks to even begin to come close to overdoing it.
Perhaps Ginde sums it up best. (Remember, he’s the co-author of the study that indicated three-quarters of adults and teens in the U.S. are deficient in the sunshine vitamin.) He says, “We’re just starting to scratch the surface of what the health effects of vitamin D are. There’s reason to pay attention for sure.”
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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