The Vitamin D Myth

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Vitamin D3 has so many benefits for your body. It helps maintain healthy bones throughout your life. Its role in the immune system is being studied for keeping you healthy day-to-day, from everything from the common cold, to fighting autoimmune disorders and reducing your cancer risk. Vitamin D3 may improve your mood and help with communication between your brain and muscles for better control of movement. It’s a very important vitamin for a lot of things, and yet, many people don’t get enough.


The sun isn’t as good a source as you think

You can get vitamin D from your diet or sunshine, but even under the best conditions, you may not get enough. Let’s talk about sunshine first. How long do you need to spend in the sun to get enough vitamin D for the day? This is a really difficult question to answer because there’s a lot of factors at play. On paper, 15-20 minutes per day with 40 percent of your skin exposed could help you prevent vitamin D deficiency. But in the real world, that may not be nearly enough. During the sunniest hours of the day, you should be wearing sunscreen to protect exposed skin. But that sunscreen can also block the rays responsible for producing vitamin D3. Your distance from the equator, the amount of pollution in your city, and even your specific skin pigment can all affect how much sunshine you need to create enough vitamin D. With all these variables, sunlight alone is not a dependable source of vitamin D.


Vitamin D in your diet

What about getting vitamin D from your food? A lot of dairy products and cereal grains are enriched in vitamin D, so will that give you enough? Consider this: When was the last time you went to a restaurant and ordered a juicy serving of beef liver? Do you eat a salmon steak every day? Can you drink six glasses of milk with your breakfast? These are some examples of what your diet would need to look like if you wanted to get your recommended vitamin D amounts through your diet. For most people, this isn’t sustainable. 

On the conservative side, more than 40 percent of adults are low in vitamin D, but that amount could be much higher, depending on your location, age, and lifestyle. Recent research suggests that as many as 72% of US adults are not getting enough vitamin D.


Adults may need much more vitamin D than previously thought

Over the past decade, new research has been challenging the recommended amount of vitamin D adults need. In short; you may need much more vitamin D than originally thought. 

When talking about vitamins and the amounts we should get, the unit of measurement is called International Units or IU for short. This can be a more specific measurement tool than milligrams. IU factors in the potency of an individual ingredient and how our bodies absorb it, which is different for each type of vitamin or mineral.

The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IU. However, studies done in the last decade suggest this number is actually way too low. Based on a key study between the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, it was found that daily intakes by adults should be about 10 times more than the RDA. Depending on the specific adult, a range of 4,000-8,000 IU was needed to maintain levels of vitamin D in the blood that had benefits for diseases related to vitamin D deficiency. 


New research reveals new benefits

Why is there such a gap between the current RDA and the latest research? The amount of vitamin D experts suggest we take has been increasing over time as new research is done. Before 1997, the RDA was based on the amount of vitamin D that was needed to prevent rickets in infants. Then, as modern research showed the expanded role of vitamin D for our health, the RDA was increased. As new research continues to understand the role of vitamin D for our immune systems and fighting common diseases, it’s possible the recommended intakes will be increased again in years to come.


Decide for yourself

Your body uses vitamin D for many different things throughout your life. While we can get vitamin D through sunshine and diet, our individual lifestyles really determine if we are getting enough. In general, Americans are low in this important vitamin. New research suggests our bodies can use much more vitamin D than originally thought. Ultimately, it’s a conversation you may want to have with your doctor to determine what sort of benefits there may be for you by increasing your vitamin D intake.