Should You Be Taking Vitamin D?

– Fitness Director Jesse Frank

  • Doctors recommend to supplement baby diets with Vitamin D.
  • The elderly are told to make sure they are getting enough, too.
  • It is often recommended that adult men and women should supplement their diets with it.

What makes Vitamin D so unique?

Pick up just about any health and fitness magazine or browse the web and chances are you’ll come across an article on Vitamin D. If you believe everything you read, then you’ll probably be convinced it is a cure all.

There are plenty of research studies that suggest a benefit, or show a link between Vitamin D and weight loss, depression, hormones and disease prevention. You would be foolish to not even consider supplementation, however, there only seems to be enough research proving D is vitally important to bone health. The studies show that if you don’t get enough, you run the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Vitamin D is the body’s controller for calcium uptake. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin that allows absorption of calcium in the gut and maintains the proper levels in the blood to promote proper bone health and growth. If we have calcium but no D, that mineral won’t get to where it needs to be and your bones can become thin and brittle. It’s other roles in cell growth, inflammation control, and immune function are still being understood fully.

Where does Vitamin D come from?

Vitamin D is the only vitamin we do not obtain from foods.
The only food that naturally has high enough levels to be useful is fish liver. Yuck. Foods such as milk and cereals are often fortified with such nutrients but this just a result of processing.

Our bodies produce Vitamin D after direct exposure to the sun.
How much D is produced from sunlight depends on a bunch of factors including the time of day, where you live in the world, the color of your skin ad how much skin is exposed. .

Should you take a Vitamin D supplement?

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency are pretty vague, so most people would not be able to know if they aren’t getting enough. A simple blood test is the most effective way to see if you are or are not getting enough. Dangerously low D is defined by the Institute of Medicine as a serum concentration of less than 30 nmol/L on a blood test. Between 30 and 50 is classified as “inadequate” for overall bone health, and over 50 is the desired level.  Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight loss specialist in Philadelphia, recommends D supplementation to achieve a blood serum D levels of 50-80.

Best to get tested but to get an idea if you might need to supplement take a look at your lifestyle:

  • How much sun exposure are you getting directly on your skin?
    The more skin you expose, the more produced
  • Are you wearing sunscreen daily?  
    Sunscreen blocks UV light and hence Vitamin D production
  • Do you eat foods fortified with D?

If you think you are not making enough D, then you have to take it.

How much should you take?

Vitamania book

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 600 IU’s per day. Catherine Price, author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food, thinks this may be too low for many. She personally takes 1000 IU’s per day. Strangely enough, that was similar to the amount I needed to raise my serum levels between 50-80, as recommended by Dr. Seltzer after analyzing my blood test. I started with 1000-2000 IU’s per day and now take a 5000 IU 2xweek to get what I need.

Since I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play one on the internet), I can’t readily prescribe a dose or even say if you should or should not supplement your diet with Vitamin D. But given the facts, it may be wise to do your own research and consult with your physician about checking your levels.