Winter Nutrition Alert: Take Your Vitamin D
It wasn’t too long ago that Vitamin D was the quintessential “B-list vitamin”. Vitamin retailers never devoted much space to vitamin D supplements. Nutrition articles rarely covered it. Instructors never spent much time on it. No one was terribly interested in vitamin D. Vitamin D’s main claim-to-fame was that unlike other vitamins, you didn’t have to get vitamin D from food – your body could make it in skin tissue upon exposure to sunlight. Hooray. As far as its benefits went, vitamin D had nothing exciting to offer, either. Most people knew it had ‘something’ to do with calcium metabolism and bone health, and if you didn’t get enough, the result was the seldom-seen-today disease rickets. But all that has changed in the recent past, and with increasing urgency health educators and researchers are urging conscientious supplementation of this critical pro-hormone for nearly everyone. Do you take a vitamin D supplement? Chances are you should.
Vitamin D is in fact a pro-hormone, and only a ‘true’ vitamin under certain conditions or by a fairly loose interpretation of the term.
Vitamin D supplements are either cholecalciferol (vitamin D3, made from lanolin or fish liver oil) or vegetarian ergocalciferol, (vitamin D made from a fungal or plant sources). Both of these are converted to the active hormone 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, or 1, 25-D. This is what has the actual ‘vitamin D’ activity in the body.
Recommended amounts have been increasing ever upward and are now 3 and 4-fold from what they were only a few years ago. This is occurring for two reasons. One, because new functions and benefits of vitamin D have been identified, and older functions have been clarified. Secondly the increased awareness that the absent, casual or intermittent sun exposure most people receive is inadequate to provide the body with optimal amounts. You may not get rickets, but without enough vitamin D, a whole host of beneficial processes are undermined:
- Calcium balance with respect to bone metabolism.
- Immune regulation including autoimmune functions.
- Insulin production.
- Blood pressure regulation.
- Protects against osteoporosis.
- May help protect against some common types of cancer.
There may be yet undiscovered functions and benefits of vitamin D, too. But even at this stage of out understanding, there’s really no excuse for not taking a vitamin D supplement:
2) Vitamin D is extremely inexpensive.
2) Vitamin D softgels are tiny and easy-to-swallow.
3) Vitamin D is also available in a vegetarian form (D2)
Adults should take 1000-2000 IU per day. Older adults and those with dark skin may need higher amounts since they synthesize less vitamin D.