It seems that vitamin and nutritional supplements have come under scrutiny lately as some studies have shown that certain vitamins when taken in supplemental form not only don’t work but may increase the risk of disease. Fortunately, there’s an inexpensive vitamin supplement that seems to have a significant impact on your risk of mortality and on the incidence of contracting disease. This important vitamin is vitamin D and most of us don’t get enough of it.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that vitamin D supplements appear to be associated with reduced mortality from all causes and that low vitamin D levels may be correlated with higher risk of such chronic diseases as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The reduction in mortality risk was seen with the intake of daily doses of vitamin D supplements which ranged from 300 to 2,000 international units.
How do we get vitamin D naturally and why do so few of us get enough of it? One of the most important reasons for low vitamin D levels is lack of adequate exposure to the sun. When the skin is exposed to natural sunlight, a chemical reaction takes place that allows production and absorption of vitamin D. The further you live from the equator where the sun is the brightest, the less vitamin D you absorb. This can be a particular problem in the winter months when the skin is covered and the sun’s rays are weakest. It’s possible to get vitamin D from eating such foods as cheese, eggs, certain types of fish, and liver, but it’s difficult to consume high enough amounts of these foods to get sufficient vitamin D levels to prevent disease and reduce mortality.
Not only is vitamin D important for maintaining healthy bones, it also is thought to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer including breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Studies have shown that persons living in areas that receive lots of direct sunlight throughout the year tend to have lower incidences of these cancers. With this most recent study, it appears that vitamin D may also lower the risk of other diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some infections.
If you don’t live in an area where you receive direct sunlight on a daily basis, more and more experts are recommending supplementation with vitamin D. While the optimal vitamin D dosage for supplementation hasn’t been clearly established, most experts are suggesting one to two 400 I.U. tablets per day. It isn’t recommended that you take higher vitamin D dosages since high levels of vitamin D can be toxic.
Should you be taking a vitamin D supplement? While the research isn’t definitive, this may be something you should discuss with your doctor. A daily dose of vitamin D may one day be a cheap insurance policy against disease.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.