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Vitamin D -- The Sun Vitamin

Updated on December 2, 2014

Why take vitamin D (or not) / how to boost vitamin D naturally, avoid vitamin D insufficiency

At my last physical I got some news that stunned me -- in a good way. Though an estimated 70 percent (or more) of folks in my area suffer from vitamin D deficiency -- blame the long, gray winters -- my vitaminD levels were A-OK, said the doc. I wondered aloud how I'd pulled that off. I try to eat healthy but am not particularly vitamin savvy. It's more about sun, he said. Hmm. Could it be those 4-5 short runs I do outside every week, even in winter? Sometimes I'm only out for 20 minutes. Could that be enough to fight off vitamin D insufficiency? I decided to do some research, and here's what I learned ...

(painting: Vincent Van Gogh, Olive Trees With Yellow Sun and Sky, public domain)

Why does Vitamin D matter?

Long recognized for its effect on on bone health,

vitamin D is now believed to help lower the risk of

certain cancers & may even help prevent illnesses

such as diabetes.

Here Comes the Sun

The good news is that most Americans are getting enough vitamin D, says a 2011 National Center for Health Statistics study, citing adequate D levels for 67% of the population. I'm guessing that population-rich, sunny California is pulling our stats up :)

More good news? Our skin is brilliant at manufacturing vitaminD from the sun's UV-B rays. I could indeed be getting my daily vitaminD from runs in the sun, even when they only last 20 minutes. Paler folks can benefit from as little as 5-10 minutes per day without sunscreen, while darker skin requires 10-20 minutes or more. It's amazing, though -- just 6 days of "casual sun exposure" can make up for 49 sunless days.

***A caveat: Check with your doctor before embarking on an unprotected-sun (yes, I know that sounds vaguely R rated) regime, as the risk of skin cancer could outweight the potential vitaminD benefits**** -- especially if you have a personal or family history of melanoma.

Because of the sun's lower position in the sky, it's harder for those of us in colder climes to get enough D from the sun in wintertime. During those months, diet and (possibly) vitamin D supplementation become more important.

Dietary D

Experts recommend 400 to 800 IUs of vitamin D per day, although some are pushing for much higher targets. The tricky thing is that excess D is stored in the body, so vitamin D toxicity is a concern, when folks go D-crazy. The recommended upper limit for vitamin D is <4,000 IUs per day, with most people needing far less than that.

VitaminD food sources include salmon (360 IUs in a 3.5 ounce serving -- wow!), shrimp (150 IUs per 3 oz), vitamin D fortified milk or orange juice (100 IUs per 8-oz glass), and D fortified cereals such as Cheerios and Raisin Bran. Eggs have a small amount of D, and some yogurts are fortified with it. Check labels!

Vitamin D Supplementation

Why take Vitamin D (or not) in supplement form

The 600 IUs of vitamin D that most of us need is achievable through diet & sunlight during the warmer months, If you know you're getting enough D through food and sun (a simple blood test can confirm this), there's no need to add more.

In winter, it can become harder to get enough D through diet and the great outdoors. High-quality supplements in moderate amounts can prevent vitamin D deficiency. ****Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement**** and, to avoid vitamin D toxicity, do not exceed your doctor's recommended dosage. You most definitely can get too much of this very good the detriment of your heart, blood vessels & kidneys.

Fight vitamin D insuffieciency with high-quality vitamin D supplementation IF prescribed by your doctor

Nordic Naturals supplements offers top-quality supplements, including an easily absorbed form of Vitamin D. Always check with your doctor! Not everyone needs a supplement to prevent vitamin D insufficiency, and even if you do need one, you'll want your doc to instruct on dosage.


Have you had your vitamin D level checked?

See results

What's your vitaminD story? Do you go out of your way to get enough, or just hope it happens naturally? What are your secrets for preventing vitamin D deficiency?


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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I'm vitaminD worthly. depends on the foods you eat, the way to take care of your body. 'thumbs up' for your lens.