HEALTH CENTER

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Vitamin D: The Secret to Healthy Bones by Russell Alterman, D.O.

altermanVitamin D is essential to our health.

We need this nutrient to maintain health in our bones and other parts of our bodies.  Vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium we eat from our food or mineral supplements.  Often the supplement combines both vitamin D and calcium.  We don’t all need to be taking extra vitamin D or even extra calcium.  Some of us naturally have a good supply of vitamin D.  Many of us get some of our daily requirement from the sun.  Check with your doctor if you know that your kidneys are not running on full power because your needs will be different.  Vitamin D helps our muscles move, our nerves communicate, our immune system recognize threats and of course our bones to prevent osteoporosis – a condition of weak and brittle bones in our advancing age.

How much vitamin D do we need for health?  The answer to this question is debated even among top scientists.  However, general guidelines have been developed through the years that are safe and promote improved health in those people known to be deficient in vitamin D.  This table below suggests the daily vitamin D requirements throughout the various stages of life.  Note that these values are the MINIMUM suggested daily amounts to prevent poor bone health.

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In the 1930’s Depression era, small children were getting very serious bone problems mostly known as rickets which causes bones to be brittle and malformed.  Since this time, a considerable amount of foods we buy at the supermarket are fortified with vitamin D such as orange juice and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Fortification programs improved the odds that these children would grow up with stronger bones.

What foods can we eat to reliably get a wholesome amount of vitamin D? 

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are among the best sources of vitamin D.  Other foods rich in vitamin D include: peppers, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli, squash, peaches, eggs, meat, and carrots.  You’ll get over 200 IU of vitamin D just by having a bowl of low-calorie cereal with 4 ounces of milk and a refreshing glass of orange juice. Some mushrooms varieties are now having their vitamin D levels boosted for our benefit by being exposed to ultraviolet light before they come to the marketplace.

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How do we know if we are NOT getting enough vitamin D from our food or the sun?  The answer to this question is from a simple blood test at your doctor’s office.  A sufficient amount of vitamin D is in the range of 30-100 (nmols/L).    If your test results reveal a number in the insufficient range, the treatment is simply to take vitamin D3, usually this is a golden gel capsule and is easily taken with breakfast each day.  Some special considerations are given to infants and babies under 12 months of age.

The current AAP recommendation (American Academy of Pediatrics) is that all infants and children should have a minimum intake of 400 IU (International Units) of vitamin D per day beginning soon after birth.

  • If your baby is exclusively or partially breastfed: He or she receive 400 IU of supplemental vitamin D daily, beginning in the first few days of life. Supplementation should continue until he or she is weaned to at least 1 qt (1 L) of whole milk per day. Whole milk should not be used until after 12 months of age.
  • If your baby is on infant formula: All formulas sold in the United States have at least 400 IU/L of vitamin D; so if your baby is drinking at least 32 ounces of formula, vitamin D supplementation is not needed. Whole milk should not be used until after 12 months of age.

I encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.

Where can I find out more about vitamin D?4

For general information on vitamin D:

  • Office of Dietary Supplements Health Professional Fact Sheet on Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D, MedlinePlus®

For more information on food sources of vitamin D:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Nutrient Database
  • Nutrient list for vitamin D (listed by food or vitamin D content), USDA

For more advice on buying dietary supplements:

Office of Dietary Supplements Frequently Asked Questions: Which brand(s) of dietary supplements should I purchase?

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.