vitamin D benefits
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New Revelations on
its Hidden Benefits
Recent studies may cause the
Institute of Medicine to increase
our recommended daily intake
Around the world, a blizzard of studies have emerged recently showing that vitamin D seems to be a significant contributor to determining how long we live.
It is now seen as playing a role in reducing the risk of cardio- vascular disease, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause of death in the USA and many other countries. Cancer is second, and diabetes is sixth. The chance to reduce our risk in these areas simply by taking vitamin D is what has gotten people excited.
Typically, claims for benefits provided by vitamins and other supplements come from only a few sources, and are met with considerable skepticism. With vitamin D, the positive results from each new study have triggered more researchers to jump in and do their own work. The PubMed database of international medical literature shows that 2,274 studies referencing vitamin D have been published in this year alone. Food industry experts have been reported to be exploring ways to use vitamin D in fortifying more products.
Doctors are also looking into increasing the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. The Institute of Medicine has appointed a committee to look into this, with recommendations now wending their way through review.
The current daily intake guidelines for vitamin D are:
200 IU -- for people under 50
400 IU -- for people 51 to 70
600 IU -- for people over 70
(Note: IU means international units, which is the number printed on the bottle when you buy supplements at the store.)
The normal way we get vitamin D is from daily exposure to sunlight. However the growing concern over skin cancer has caused most of us to avoid exposure, or to wear sunscreen and sunblock. In terms of food intake, vitamin D occurs naturally in some fatty fish such as salmon. Other foods such as milk have already been fortified with vitamin D, though in realtively small amounts. As a result, there is a widespread deficiency of vitamin D in most people.
In supplements, the traditional role for vitamin D was as a mundane helper for the absorbtion of calcium. That caused calcium tablets to be boosted with a modest amount of vitamin D. I was taking calcium softgels which contained 500 IU of vitamin D. But after reading about all the research findings, I recently switched to calcium softgels with 1000 IU of vitamin D. (Current medical guidelines say we can safely take up to 2000 IU per day.)
Eventually the appropriate board will get around to raising the vitamin D intake guidelines for people of all ages, but there is no reason why we have to wait.
If living a longer life is of interest, and you are not taking a vitamin D supplement yet, it is something to consider.
For more information:
The New York Times article on vitamin D.
The Los Angeles Times article on vitamin D.
National Institutes of Health fact sheet on vitamin D.
living longer, healthier, happier
with a more youthful body