A number of exciting studies have come out in the last few years suggesting that the benefits of Vitamin D are much broader than just bone health. While long recognized as essential for the body to absorb calcium, Vitamin D may also play a critical preventative role in a wide range of health concerns, including diabetes, cancers, chronic inflammation and high blood pressure.
This new focus on Vitamin D has also revealed that about 25 percent of the adult population may have some degree of Vitamin D deficiency. Fortunately there are three easy ways to boost your Vitamin D levels. If you expose your unprotected skin to UV rays it will quickly synthesize all the Vitamin D you need. Naturally, this plan puts your skin in harm’s way and increases your risk of premature aging and sun-related cancers. Darker skin that is more naturally resistant to sun damage is also less efficient at synthesizing Vitamin D because the melanin that darkens the skin absorbs the UV light needed to trigger synthesis.
A second option is supplementation. Vitamin D dietary supplements are cheap and readily available. The current recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 IU. The third, and most delicious, option is making Vitamin D–rich foods part of your diet. While many foods, such as milk, are fortified with Vitamin D, many fish that are naturally high in omega fats, such as salmon, black cod, mackerel and tuna, are also naturally high in Vitamin D. As an example, a single three-ounce serving of sockeye salmon has approximately 450 IU of Vitamin D.
Because Vitamin D is fat-soluble, your body will store Vitamin D in fatty tissue to use as you need it. This also means that if you are determined, you can get too much of a good thing. Wildly excessive amounts of Vitamin D can lead to cardiovascular issues and other negative consequences, so current guidelines recommend an upper limit of Vitamin D consumption for adults from all sources at 4,000 IU. Curiously, there is no risk of Vitamin D toxicity associated with sun exposure.
Given the known and potential importance of Vitamin D to long-term good health, it’s important to have your levels tested periodically by your doctor. This is doubly important as we grow older because our ability to absorb Vitamin D from our diet and to synthesize it from UV light both diminish over time.