Vitamin D, please

This Letter to the Editors was submitted by Jamie Levine, the Dining Services Nutrition Assistant at Concordia College.

For years, vitamin D’s claim to fame has been its role in bone health. But researchers have found even more health benefits. The Institute of Medicine just recently increased the recommended vitamin D intake from 400 to 600 international units daily for adults (slightly higher levels for older adults). Many health professionals believe this increase was still not enough. It is essential that college students pay attention to the vitamin intake early in their lives, before it has long-term adverse health effects.

What is vitamin D’s role in disease prevention? Vitamin D has long been known to help your body absorb calcium. Researchers confirm that having low vitamin D levels can contribute to osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease that leads to an increased risk of fracture in older people. Vitamin D may also be a key component in the fight against high blood pressure and heart disease. Researchers report that people with lower levels of vitamin D are at greater risk of narrowing arteries which causes heart disease. Vitamin D has certain characteristics that may reduce the growth of certain tumors. Researchers report increased levels of vitamin D can decrease risk of certain cancers such as colon cancer. Researchers report kids who are vitamin D deficient are at greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Are the current recommendations high enough? Even after the Institute of Medicine raised the previous recommendation to 600 international units daily, many health professionals report this is still not sufficient. They believe people will benefit from even higher vitamin D levels.
Are you getting enough? People at risk of a vitamin D deficiency include those living in the northern latitudes, the elderly and those with darker skin. On average, Americans have a vitamin D intake of less than 400 international units daily. Many health professionals recommend a safe intake is 1,000 to 2,000 international units daily, but not to exceed 4,000 international units.
How do I increase my vitamin D intake? Dining Services offers a wide range of foods to increase your vitamin D intake. Foods with the highest amount of vitamin D include: fortified milk, fortified cereals, fatty fish (salmon and tuna), egg yolks, soy products (tofu and soy milk), and white button mushrooms.

You can also get vitamin D from the sun and supplements. Just 20 minutes in the sun in a bathing suit can help you achieve around 10,000 international units of vitamin D. Although most health experts generally advise against using tanning beds due to the risk of developing skin cancer, it is a potential option to increase vitamin D levels. Supplements are a great way to get adequate doses of vitamin D year round if you cannot get enough from a balanced diet. The suggested supplement is Vitamin D3 because it is the active form.

For more information or question about vitamin D, contact your physician or schedule an appointment with one of five dietitians on staff at Concordia Dining Services by calling 218.299.3706.

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