The Scoop on Vitamin D - The New "It" Supplement

Posted by administrator Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You've probably heard that clever marketing slogan, "Milk: It does a body good," touting the benefits of a diet that includes vitamin D-fortified and calcium-rich milk. Calcium, however, seemed to be getting most of the credit. Vitamin D, also known as calciferol, does aid in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones, however, there's more to the story. The past year has seen the release of several new findings showing the overwhelming additional benefits of having appropriate levels of vitamin D-as well as the risks of having a vitamin D deficiency-that have pushed vitamin D into the nutrient spotlight. Here are some of those findings:

* Several observational studies have linked low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of cancer including breast, rectum, ovary, prostate and lung. According to Dr. Michael F. Holick, head of the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, "Activated vitamin D is one of the most potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth."
* A recent Washington Post article that featured Hector DeLuca, a University of Wisconsin biochemist who has been a pioneer in vitamin D research, revealed that rates of colon cancer are 50% lower in parts of the country that are generally sunny (vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight).
* A February New York Times article discussing recent developments in the links between low levels of vitamin D and certain health risks reported that in a national study that sampled non-Hispanic whites, researchers found a 75% lower risk of diabetes among people higher levels of vitamin D.
* The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published a study in which researchers from Creighton University in Omaha discovered that among 1,179 healthy post-menopausal women, those that took calcium and 1,100 IU of vitamin D each day developed 80% fewer cancers than those that took calcium and a placebo.
* A 2006 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association provided further evidence that vitamin D dampens an overactive immune system, indicating that a vitamin D deficiency may make people more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
* Most recently, a study from Harvard Medical School published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that men with a vitamin D deficiency are 2.5 times more likely to suffer heart attack than men with higher levels of vitamin D.

Does it affect you?

With vitamin D creating so much buzz in niche journals and mainstream media outlets alike, it's important to understand what all of these recent findings really mean for you in your daily life.

Some experts believe that the majority of people in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient, and that certain groups are more likely to be at risk for having low levels of vitamin D. Because vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is exposed to UVB radiation, people who avoid the sun or have dark skin ultimately absorb less UV radiation and produce less vitamin D. In the winter, people who live in the northern two-thirds of the country make little or no vitamin D. People who always wear sunscreen will protect themselves from the potential risk of developing skin cancer, but in doing so also prevent themselves from producing adequate vitamin D.

Other at-risk groups include older people and breast-fed infants, because breast milk doesn't contain sufficient vitamin D.

How much do you need?

The Institute of Medicine currently recommends an Adequate Intake (AI) level for each age group. This is the minimum suggested daily amount:

Adults over age 70 ... 600 IU
Adults age 52 to 70 ... 400 IU
Adults under age 50 ... 200 IU
Nursing/Pregnant Women ... 200 IU
Children all ages ... 200 IU
Infants age 0 to 1 ... 200 IU

The professional recommendation is that people should include foods rich in Vitamin D in their daily diet. The following foods and amounts will give you some guidelines.

Cod Liver Oil (1 tbsp) ... 1360 IU
Salmon (3.5 oz) ... 360 IU
Mackerel (3.5 oz) ... 345 IU
Vitamin D Fortified Milk (1 cup) ... 98 IU

Taking a supplement that provides the recommended amount for your age group can help you make sure that you're getting the maximum benefit. Vitamin D supplements are available in prenatal supplements, multivitamins, calcium-vitamin D combinations and plain vitamin D. Check with your doctor or pharmacist, who can recommend a supplement to best serve your individual needs.

A complete list of the resources used in the writing and compilation of this article are available upon request. Please email Deb at

Deborah Faucette is a registered pharmacist, and has worked in the retail, clinical, association, marketing, and education sectors of the pharmaceutical industry. To learn more about common health and wellness concerns, visit and research objective, unbiased and clinically-approved information on hundreds of products to help you select the product solution that is best for your needs.

Contact Deb at with any questions about the education and research services provides.

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