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You Are My Sunshine: The Importance of Vitamin D in the Diet

Jan 04, 2017 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Caley Breese

There are so many nutrients that are vital to keeping our bodies healthy. Vitamin D is certainly one of them, but with winter in full force and the cold weather keeping us indoors, it is more difficult to maintain a sufficient amount of vitamin D—or “the sunshine vitamin”—in our bodies.

The tricky thing about vitamin D is getting enough of it without too much time in the sun, which we already know is not good for us in other ways. Further complicating the matter is that vitamin D is not as accessible like most other vitamins through the foods we eat. So investing in a supplement is clearly a sensible measure you can take to stay healthy.

Vitamin D can be found in a few foods, such as fatty fish like tuna, herring, and sardines. Cheese and egg yolks also contain a small amount, as well. Vitamin D is often added to dairy products, juices, and cereals. Just recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved to increase the amount of vitamin D that can be added to milk.

What happens when you don’t get enough D?

The clinical condition associated and most often diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency is called rickets and appears most often in young children. This condition causes muscle weakness, pain in the spine, pelvis, and legs, and delayed growth. People over the age of 65 are also at risk for vitamin D deficiency because they may not get enough of it in their diet, they are less likely to spend time in the sun, or they may have trouble absorbing vitamin D.

Besides avoiding osteoporosis, or the bone pain associated with osteomalacia (softening of the bones), maintaining optimum levels of vitamin D also helps prevent low blood calcium and low levels of phosphate. The vitamin can be especially important in treating an inherited condition called osteogenesis imperfecta that causes bones to become so brittle they can be easily broken.

People can get their daily intake of vitamin D through supplements, a topical ointment for people with skin conditions like psoriasis can also be applied.

Recommended dosages

Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, is the most recommended type of vitamin D for its efficiency and efficacy. This form mimics the natural way that our bodies produce vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D3 is also used to treat and prevent many conditions like the flu.

While daily needs per person can differ, the National Institutes of Health, recommends a range of 400-1000 IU for older adults in order to prevent osteoporosis and fractures. Depending on the age of your child, 400-600 IU of vitamin D is recommended daily. Throughout young adult life to older adult life, a sufficient amount of vitamin D is around 600 IU per day. Consult with your pediatrician or personal physician to assess your specific needs.

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