Heavy Hitting Vitamin D
No sun, no fun: Do we need to supplement Vitamin D?
In the last decade or so, the research on the benefits and effects of vitamin D have really started to pile up. Along with A,E and K, vitamin D is another fat-soluble vitamin. Our body synthesizes its own vitamin D from cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight (as long as the UV index is 3 or higher).
We find it in fish and eggs as well and most people are not deficient in vitamin D due to foods being fortified with it. However, not being deficient in vitamin D does not necessarily mean that we have optimal levels of it in our body. The current RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of vitamin D is 400-800 IU per day. More recent research is suggesting that 1000-2000 IU daily should be our target intake to meet the needs of most of the population living away from the equator. As we get into the winter months here, with less sun-light and colder temps, it may be necessary to grab a bottle of this powerful vitamin off the shelf.
Multi-Vitamin or Multi-Waste-of-Money?
Before taking any supplement you should consult your physician to see if it’s right for you. The vitamin supplement market is a billion dollar industry that’s loosely regulated at best.
The argument against covering your vitamin/mineral needs with a multi-vitamin, is that many nutrients either assist in the absorption process of other nutrients or they COMPETE rendering many of those multi-vitamins essentially ineffective and a waste of your hard earned cash. For example, taking vitamin D with calcium will likely INCREASE the bio-availability of vitamin D while taking vitamin D with magnesium will likely DECREASE absorption of vitamin D in the small intestine. With all of the nutrients in a standard multi-vitamin either helping or impeding one another, the multi-vitamin shotgun approach is at best ineffective.
Better practices for any vitamin or mineral supplementation, is to blood test and see if you are actually deficient in any of these nutrients, and supplement accordingly in any nutrient in which you are deficient.
Most bang for your buck
If there is any one supplement you should be taking, vitamin D should be a top priority. The potential upsides are many and the downsides are few if any:
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Increased bone density
- Decreased risk of injury and illness
- Decreased blood pressure
Again, we should always consult with a physician before taking a new supplement. Knowing if you have a deficiency in any key vitamin or mineral is always better than guessing or the catch-all multi-vitamin approach. And as we stated earlier, vitamin D is a FAT-SOLUBLE vitamin and should be taken with a meal with a little bit of fat in it. Pass the butter.
Dr. Robert M. Lane
B.s. Nutrition, Exercise & Health Science – University of Nebraska
D.C. – Palmer College