The Vitamin D Deficiency Epidemic
I have been conducting research in the field of vitamin D for almost 40 years. My laboratory helped establish the importance of sun exposure to the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D. We also worked to determine how latitude, the seasons, aging, skin pigmentation and the use of sunscreen all affect this vital process.
Vitamin D is critically important not only for bone health, but it is also now being recognized as an important nutrient to prevent many chronic diseases including common cancers, autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and heart disease. In this and forthcoming articles, I will provide you with the rationale for why vitamin D has all of its health benefits, as well as report on the most up-to-date information on vitamin D and health.
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common medical conditions world-wide. It’s been estimated that more than half of all children and adults in the U. S. and Europe are at risk. Vitamin D deficiency can set the stage for osteoporosis and increase the risk of fracture once the condition has developed. It’s also associated with muscle weakness and increased risk for falls. In addition, vitamin D deficiency prevents calcium deposition in bones (a condition known as osteomalacia or adult rickets) and can increase the risk of fracture and cause aching, throbbing bone pain. People who complain of aching muscles and bone pain are often misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome or, simply depression. From my experience, more than half of patients complaining of nonspecific aches and pains in their bones and muscles are vitamin D deficient. Correction of their vitamin D deficiency usually results not only in improved muscle strength and decreased achiness, but also improved mood and overall feelings of well-being.
The only way to know whether you are getting enough vitamin D is to have your doctor measure your blood for 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the circulating form. Most experts, including myself, believe that a blood level of less than 20 ng/ml indicates vitamin D deficiency. However, to obtain the full health benefits of vitamin D, I recommend maintaining a blood level of greater than 30 ng/ml. Levels of up to 100 ng/ml are safe and not associated with toxicity. However, patients who suffer from the rare disease sarcoidosis should discuss this with their doctor, since increasing blood level above 30 ng/ml can cause them to have excessively high blood calcium. For details, please visit my web site (VitaminDHealth.org), where there is a wealth of information on vitamin D.
I recommend that all adults and children over the age of one year ingest 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. My family members and I take 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily along with a multi-vitamin that contains 400 IU of vitamin D. In addition, I cycle on the weekends, garden, play tennis and get a sensible amount of sun exposure—typically 15 to 30 minutes on my arms and legs two to three times a week between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. I wear sun protection on my face, since it is the most sun-exposed, and most likely to be damaged by excessive exposure to sunlight.
In the coming months, I will provide you with guidance on how to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency. I’ll also review recent reports that increasing your vitamin D intake may reduce your risk of developing cancer, and of having a heart attack or stroke.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: The scientific literature is compelling regarding vitamin D as being an important nutrient for overall health and well-being. There is no downside to increasing your vitamin D intake by at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.
QUICK TIP: According to Jean Carper, vitamin D may help prevent cancer. Learn More
Written exclusively for Stop Aging Now, the authority on anti-aging research, anti-aging nutrition, and anti-aging supplements.