Update on D – It’s Not Just For Bones Anymore!

Vitamin D is a media darling these days with lots of new research coming out showing its benefits beyond bone health.

Two of the most recent reports presented at the annual American Association for Cancer Research meeting this year point to D’s potential for reducing the risk of breast cancer. Other reports hint that D may lower the risk of multiple sclerosis and other cancers besides breast cancer.

If you couple that with evidence that many of us are vitamin D deficient and a trip to store for some vitamin D supplements may be necessary.

The daily value (recommended level for most people) is 400 IU’s (that’s international units) per day. But most researchers now believe that we may need much more than that – probably 800 to 1000 IU’s per day to help absorb our calcium, keep our bones strong, and maintain proper blood levels of vitamin D.

Here’s what you should do to get your vitamin D:

  • More Sun? Some experts are recommending more time in the sun to boost vitamin D. It takes about 15 minutes of sun on the arms and face two to three times a week to get what you need. If you wear sunscreen, you block much of the vitamin D production. But darker skin and older skin are not as good at making vitamin D from the sun; and while that much time in the sun may not increase your skin cancer risk if you’re adamant about avoiding the sun, supplements can safely suffice! Even if you do spend time in the sun, a multivitamin with some additional D is a good idea.
  • Take a Multivitamin. Most multivitamins contain 400 IU’s of vitamin D.
  • Buy Calcium Supplements with D. Most calcium supplements have D added. Read the label carefully – especially the serving size – to find out how much D is in each tablet. Most calcium plus D tablets have 200 IU’s of vitamin D each but it can vary.
  • Look for “Cholecalciferol” (D3). This type of vitamin D is stronger and better than its cousin, ergocalciferol (D2). Check the label on your multivitamin and calcium supplements to be sure you are getting D3 in your supplement.
  • Drink milk and D-added Juice. Milk and some orange juices are fortified with vitamin. One cup of each contains 100 IU’s of vitamin D (it will say “25% of the daily value” on the label).
  • Vitamin D supplements. If you’re still not able to get the amount of D you need, you can add on a separate vitamin D supplement. Again, make sure it’s the more powerful cholecalciferol (D3) and not the less powerful ergocalciferol (D2). Vitamin D supplements usually come in doses of 400 to 800 IU’s per pill. Look for plain vitamin D supplements with no added vitamin A – just the D. Too much extra vitamin A (beyond what you get in your multivitamin and your foods) may weaken your bones and increase your chances of a break!

While vitamin D is crucial for calcium absorption, you don’t have to take vitamin D at the exact same time that you take your calcium.

Vitamin D is always in your bloodstream – so it’s always there to help absorb calcium from your intestines into the blood and then to your bones!Questions? Call the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Tone Your Bones Hotline at 1.888.934.DIET.