Concerns are growing about the health risks of living with insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels are associated with depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, weak bones, autoimmune diseases, frequent infections such as flu, insulin resistance and even breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is actually a hormone created in your body when sunlight hits the skin. Every tissue in the body uses vitamin D. It boosts your immune system, strengthens your heart and helps build stronger bones, among other benefits. The less sun you get, the older you are or the darker your skin, the less vitamin D you produce.
Scientists are now finding the current recommendations for daily vitamin D intake — 400 IU for those aged 51 to 70 and 600 IU for those older than 70 — are not enough. Vitamin D sources include wild-caught, oily fish such as salmon and canned tuna, along with fortified foods such as cereal and milk. Yet experts say it’s difficult to consume adequate amounts through food.
Rather than recommending people get more sun exposure, which can increase skin cancer risk, experts are advising people to take supplements as the simplest, safest way to get enough vitamin D. Getting 800 to 1000 IU is a good goal, but some scientists say that number needs to be even higher — possibly double the IU.