Vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin helps build healthy bones. But it's estimated that a billion people worldwide have a deficiency, making it the most common nutrient deficiency for most adults. According to the National Library of Medicine, around 42% of the American adult population has a vitamin D deficiency. For this reason, taking vitamin D is common and necessary for optimal health.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin with many crucial functions throughout the body including bone density and immune function. The normal way to get vitamin D is through sunshine. First, your body soaks up the sun's rays through your skin. Then waiting receptors assimilate vitamin D with cholesterol. Finally, vitamin D and cholesterol synthesize together to form calcium. Calcium then helps build strong bones.
Even though vitamin D is a vitamin, it functions much like a hormone. However, unlike other vitamins, you don't get it from your food unless the product has been fortified with vitamin D. For example, milk and cereals can commonly have added vitamin D. On the other hand, hormones are produced and converted from other precursor or foundation hormones.
An example of this process is the production of testosterone. Testosterone comes from another hormone, DHEA. DHEA is produced in the adrenals, and parts of this convert to testosterone and other vital hormones. Vitamin D does the same process but with cholesterol.
Vitamin D is a common ingredient in most multivitamins or taken by itself. Vitamin D is available over the counter or with a prescription and can improve bone density. However, there is a wide range of strengths, and the amount you need will depend on your health, age, and weight.
Determining the right amount of vitamin D required can be confusing because different websites offer various recommendations about how much vitamin D adults and children should receive. If you use the suggestions on the low end, many adults may not get the optimal amount of vitamin D needed. For this reason, supplementing with vitamin D or eating fortified foods can be beneficial.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount is the following:
Children (up to age 12): 400 international units (IU)
Teenagers to Adults (age 13-70): 600 IU
Elderly: (age 70+): 800 IU
The Mayo Clinic also states that higher levels (1,000 to 2,000 IU) each day of vitamin D are safe. Overall, people may need higher amounts if you’re deficient to truly receive the benefits of vitamin D.
Other doctors and researchers state that vitamin D needs for adults are much higher. For example, the Endocrine Society recommends that people should maintain a preferred range of 40 to 60 ng/mL of vitamin D. As a result, adults need between 1500 to 2000 IU to meet this range and children to adolescents (aged 1 to 18 years) need 600 to 1,000 IUs.
But recommended levels may be higher for those with a vitamin D deficiency or sick. One published account in the Official Publication of the Family Physicians in Canada looked at how vitamin D affected influenza. Influenza or the flu increases during the winter months, and people, especially older adults, receive less sunlight.
One doctor administered a one-time dose of 50,000 IUs of vitamin D3 or three 1,000 IU doses and saw dramatic results. Influenza symptoms disappeared in 48 to 72 hours. The doctor of the publiblication stated that giving this high amount one time is safe or even in three different instances and has proven not to be toxic.
Everyone needs vitamin D, but an insufficiency level is between 20 to 30 ng/mL. People prone to being vitamin D deficient are pregnant women, Hispanics, Blacks, obese adults, and children.
In the United States, as mentioned, 42% of adults have a vitamin D deficiency. However, 50% of children aged 1 to 5 have low levels. This number goes up to 70% for children aged 6 to 11. According to research, an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency comes from higher levels of obesity in children and adults, a decrease in milk consumption, and the regular daily use of sun protection.
First, you can boost levels through sunshine. However, it would be best to keep in mind that too much sun can cause sunburn or increase the risk of skin cancer. But you only need to make an effort to sit in the sun for 10-15 minutes per day without sunscreen.
Getting daily sunshine is easier to do in the summer, but the amount of sunlight and temperature decrease in the winter. Also, skin pigmentation or coloring can affect how much and long it takes for your body to soak up sunshine.
In this case, eating fortified foods may be better for your lifestyle. Some foods like egg yolks have vitamin D but are not enough to meet most adults' needs. So instead, look for foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk and cereal. Eating fortified foods is a good idea, but there is an easier way.
You can also use a topical vitamin D cream. Transdermal creams infused with vitamin D come in levels up to 10,000 IUs. They provide the exact amount your body needs and have many benefits besides boosting bone health. For example, vitamin D creams can help boost the immune system, increase energy, and help with chronic pain.
Vitamin D is a highly beneficial vitamin for optimal health. Finding the right dose for you depends on your health, age, and weight. However, healthcare experts recommend anywhere from 800 to 2,000 IUs per day. Yet this could increase for those who are sick or have other health concerns. Check with your doctor to see what dose is correct for you.