Think you are being smart staying out of the sun? Maybe not. You may not be getting enough vitamin D. By some estimates, three-quarters of all adults and children are deficient in this sunshine vitamin. Recent studies have demonstrated its central role in maintaining health.
Decreased or insufficient levels of vitamin D have been linked to:
- Suppressed immunity. Our innate systems of defense may not function efficiently without adequate vitamin D, allowing increased susceptibility to infectious agents.
- Increased risk of chronic disease. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with a higher-than-normal risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, asthma, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.
- Heightened inflammation. Vitamin D is a key cofactor in regulating inflammation throughout the body.
If you live north of, say, Atlanta, Georgia (35 degrees latitude), weak winter ultraviolet rays from the sun are not strong enough to allow your body to create vitamin D. And today, with all the warnings about sun and skin cancer, many of us are more likely to slather on SPF lotion or completely cover up. Being dark-skinned, obese (vitamin D is stored in fat), or elderly (older bodies don’t synthesize vitamin D as well) can also cause low levels of the vitamin.
It is tough to get vitamin D from food. Good sources are egg yolks and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), but you’d have to eat six ounces of salmon or 47 egg yolks a day to get the recommended 1,000 international units (IU). Even fortified milk, orange juice, and cereal supply only 100 IU per serving. That means you probably have to supplement. Since I’m over 60, my target is 1,200 IU daily. You will benefit by conducting a little independent research to determine what is appropriate for each member of your family.
P.S. One way to determine your level of vitamin D is by a vitamin D test (the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test).