By Nutritionist Blogger Jeni Tackett, RD, LD
Vitamin D is a nutrient and a hormone with known importance to our bone health. But could adequate Vitamin D levels help you prevent cancer, avoid a heart attack, and even reduce the symptoms of COVID-19? Many of the studies with Vitamin D and health are observational, but having levels within the recommended guidelines is strongly recommended.
What is Vitamin D?
• Vitamin D is a hormone that our body can create and a nutrient we consume in foods.
• There are two forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3. Both forms raise blood levels of vitamin D, but D3 may be more effective.
• Vitamin D is key in bone health and helps you to absorb calcium and phosphorus.
• Vitamin D is fat soluble and better absorbed if taken with food that contains fat. Also, due to the fat solubility, vitamin D can reach toxic levels and should not be taken in excess.
Where do we get Vitamin D?
• Vitamin D comes from sunlight exposure, foods, and supplements.
• You need at least 10-15 minutes in the sun (without sunscreen on) a few times/week to produce enough Vitamin D. Unfortunately, we live in an area of the country where Vitamin D production is difficult in the winter time. Many Midwesterners become Vitamin D deficient in the winter months
• Not many foods contain Vitamin D. Sources include fortified milks (cow, soy), fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.
What are the guidelines for Vitamin D levels?
• Levels of 50 nmol/L (20 ng/mL) or above are adequate for most people for bone and overall health.
• Levels below 30 nmol/L (12 ng/mL) are too low and might weaken your bones and affect your health.
• Levels above 125 nmol/L (50 ng/mL) are too high and might cause health problems.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
Can adequate Vitamin D levels prevent cancer, heart disease, and COVID-19?
Maybe. I read an article citing a study on Vitamin D and COVID-19 that made it seem like Vitamin D was the solution to a mild case of the virus. However, the study was on a small subject group and used questionable statistical methods. You have to be careful about media nutrition and make sure to do your research.
Having adequate vitamin D levels is not going to hurt you so being informed about your vitamin D levels and taking steps to improve it if needed is good for your health.
What are the main takeaways?
• Include vitamin D rich foods in your diet
• When the sun is out, go outside! Try to get at least 10-15 minutes of sun exposure 2x/week. Daily sun exposure is even better (although rarely possible in the Midwest during winter). Put sunscreen on after 15 minutes if you are staying in the sun.
• Have your physician test your vitamin D levels, and take the recommend amount of supplement if your levels are low.
|Meet Jeni Tackett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Nutrition Blogger. Jeni is a registered and licensed dietitian for Rock Valley Health. Jeni counsels her clients on weight loss and nutrition. You can read Jeni’s bio and other blog posts by clicking here.|