Health Focus: The Wonders of Vitamin D

vitamin-dAs part of our commitment to bring you information and offers that support good health, we’ll be blogging, from time to time, about some of the latest news and issues concerning health, nutrition and fitness. This time around we take a quick look at a vitamin that has long been known to be essential for healthy bones, but has come to light recently in five separate studies that show wide-ranging benefits. Some are calling it the new “It Vitamin.” You probably know it better as “The Sunshine Vitamin” – Vitamin D.

Studies over the past few years have shown that as many as three out of four Americans have a vitamin D concentration in their blood that is under the normal level. Low vitamin D levels contribute to weaker bones, and many researchers believe that increased levels of vitamin D can reduce risk for many types of cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as MS and rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and even the flu.

Dr. J. Brent Muhlestein, director of cardiovascular research at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, was the lead author of a study that examined data from more than 9,000 people who had been diagnosed with low vitamin D. Those who improved their vitamin D levels showed much less heart disease compared to people whose levels were still below normal later in the study. For those who are deficient, raising the amount of vitamin D in the blood appears to help reduce their risk of heart disease by about 30%.

Dr. Michael Holick of Boston University, a long time vitamin D advocate and author of The Vitamin D Solution, says that all adults should be taking at least 1,000 to 1,500 international units a day. According to Dr. Holick, there is overwhelming evidence that increased intake can make substantial improvements in health, and he says that “there is no downside to increasing your intake” both through diet and vitamin supplements.

And a recent study published in Pediatrics recommended that most newborns should receive a daily vitamin D supplement as well. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be kept out of direct sunlight for their first 6 months of life, vitamin D supplements help to boost levels that would normally be derived from sun exposure.

The AAP has also doubled the recommendation of vitamin D for infants, children and adolescents too, suggesting that children receive 400 international units per day, starting as early as possible. It’s suspected that one out of five kids aged 1 to 11 don’t get enough vitamin D and could be at risk for a variety of health problems as a result.

Foods rich in vitamin D include fortified milk (including many soy based milks), fortified cereals and oily fish such as salmon and tuna. Some juices and juice drinks are also fortified with vitamin D. Experts say that dietary intake may add up to 200 to 400 units a day. Although sunlight is also one of the best sources, since UV rays can cause other health risks, most doctors recommend limited exposure to direct sunlight.

If you’re considering the addition of any vitamin or mineral supplement to your daily routine, be sure to discuss it with your own doctor. And don’t forget to check out our Vitamin Shoppe coupons for savings on all of your nutritional products purchases.

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