In the early part of the 20th century, researchers found that Vitamin D deficiency caused the bone disorder known as rickets. In order to help prevent this disorder in children nationwide, milk was fortified with Vitamin D in an attempt to help everyone reach their minimum recommended dosage – which at the time was 400 international units (IU) per day.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Beyond bone and muscle weakness associated with rickets, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, insomnia, autoimmune disorders (such as Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis), certain kinds of cancer, and reduced immune responses. There have even been correlations between the deaths related to the Swine Flu H1N1 virus and Vitamin D deficiency.
How Much Vitamin D is Too Much?
Obviously, the health benefits of Vitamin D make it an attractive solution to many of the more common maladies in modern society. It is a naturally occurring vitamin and is absolutely necessary for people to thrive. However, it is possible to take too much Vitamin D, and to suffer from Vitamin D toxicity. With that in mind the health-conscious consumer then must ask “How much is right for me?”
The answers to that simple question are abundant, confused and quite contradictory.
- The Institute of Medicine recommends that children and adults up to age 50 get 200 IU daily, while adults over age 50 should get 400 – 600 IU daily.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and adolescents get 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
- The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 400 – 800 IU per day for adults up to 50 years of age, and as much as 800 – 1,000 IU for adults over 50
- The current US FDA Recommended Daily Allowance remains 400 IU per day for everyone
Which is the Best Way to Get Vitamin D?
There are abundant natural sources of Vitamin D, including sunlight and dietary inclusion of oily fish. Supplements are also available; however, the experts still disagree over the best way to get enough Vitamin D per day.
- The recommended amount of sunshine is 10 – 20 minutes of sunlight between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM without sunscreen about twice a week. However, the exposure to UV rays causes other potential health risks.
- Vitamin D supplements are a great way to ensure that optimal levels of Vitamin D are reached; however, supplements are also the most frequent culprits in cases of Vitamin D toxicity.
- Oily fish, such as cod or salmon provide a natural dietary source of vitamin D, however there are potential risks of mercury poisoning.
- Vitamin A & D fortified milk is the primary way most individuals intake Vitamin D; however there are increasing numbers of people with dairy allergies and intolerance, as well as other health concerns surrounding regularly drinking cow’s milk.
Though there does not appear to be any one clear, simple answer, there are a few simple guidelines everyone can follow. Because doctors can test levels of vitamin D in the blood, and prescribe the appropriate supplements if they are necessary, it is a good idea to have this tested.
If skin cancer and other disorders related to UV exposure, such as rosacea, do not run in a patient’s family, moderate doses of sunlight are an easy way to up Vitamin D without a possibility of overdose because the human body creates the vitamin with the sunlight, and will stop when it has enough.