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Food Trends: The Dynamic Vitamin D

Some of you may have recently been told your Vitamin D is low or that you are deficient. You are not alone as in the past this was not a routine test checked by physicians. With the heightened awareness of “deficiencies” it is ordered on a more routine basis and approximately 40% of the United States has inadequate supplies of this very popular Vitamin.

It is important to note that the Vitamin D Council estimates that 20% of physicians in the United States order the wrong test to truly assess Vitamin D levels. 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is the wrong test as it measures the hormone calcitrol and is manipulated by calcium intake so make sure when your doctor orders this test that the right test is ordered, 25(OH)D or 25- hydroxy vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that’s created in your body with sun exposure.  It is also found in egg yolk, salmon, mackerel, cod oil, fish oil, fortified cheese, fortified milk, beef liver and some fortified breads and cereals.  Lack of sunlight, decreased intake of Vitamin D foods in the diet, and those who have a BMI over 30 have low levels of vitamin D in the blood secondary to absorption and circulation complications.

Symptoms of a deficiency are muscle cramps, low calcium levels in the blood, fragile bones, mood swings, and depression to name a few and a deficiency can eventually lead to Rickets, a disease that leads to softening or weakening of the bones.  It is also thought that low Vitamin D attributes to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, Cancers, some autoimmune disorders, and increased asthma with children.

The reference range for Vitamin D is 30-74 ng/mL but the Vitamin D Council recommends that everyone aims to be above 50 ng/mL.  If your level is below 20 ng/mL your physician will most likely prescribe a high dose supplement to treat it.

There are different supplementation thoughts right now regarding Vitamin D.  What we do know is that it is important to take Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol. The Vitamin D council recommends anything from 1000 IU to 5000 IU a day where the Food and Nutrition Board’s Upper Limit recommendation is 2000 IU a day.  Some physicians prescribe up to 50000 IU supplementation over a 90 day period with a re-evaluation.

As a dietitian, I recommend attempting to receive at least 10 minutes of natural sunlight a day, 2000 IU/day for adults of Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol pills and at least two eight ounce glasses of fortified skim milk a day. Depending on Vitamin D results and review of diet,  I sometimes recommend a fish oil supplement as well.  If you are deficient talk to your doctor and ask for the research behind his/her supplementation thoughts or visit your dietitian.  Getting ahead of the game is key with Vitamin D. Good luck and be well.


lauren said…
Thanks Amy! Great article! It is amazing how little sunshine we get in the winter time. I no longer work at a desk 40 hours a week, but when I did, I would often go to work in the dark and come home in the dark! Zero sunlight!
Hi Lauren. It's depressing how little sunlight we receive in the winter. A lot of practitioners are recommending taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 every October through May to make sure optimal Vitamin D levels are maintained for that very reason. Of course when deficient the hard part is first playing catch up. Thanks for following the blog!
Jayme U. said…
Thanks!! I have been vitamin D deficient for about 2 years and am always looking for natural ways to boost my D in addition to supplements. This was helpful!

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