Vitamin D -- More May Be Better

Released: 5/11/2005 3:45 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Mayo Clinic
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Newswise — It might be time to up the daily dose of vitamin D.

Vitamin D has long been known to help keep your bones in good shape. The May issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers new research that shows vitamin D may play a much bigger role in overall health.

Several recent studies have considered the effects of low vitamin D on health aside from bones. In a controlled study of elderly women, those taking vitamin D and calcium had much better leg strength and fewer falls than the women taking only calcium. Another study, of patients ages 10 to 65 with musculoskeletal pain, found 93 percent were deficient in vitamin D.

Researchers are looking at the role vitamin D may play in other diseases. Part of that interest is driven by the lower incidence of prostate, colon and breast cancers; multiple sclerosis; and Type I diabetes in regions that receive higher amounts of direct sunlight throughout the year. Skin exposed to sunlight can generate the equivalent of thousands of international units (IUs) of vitamin D.

Now the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults through age 50 take 200 IU of vitamin D daily. The recommendations go up for older adults: 400 IU for ages 51 to 70, and 600 IU for those over age 70.

These recommendations were set to prevent severe bone disease. Researchers are increasingly concerned that these standards are too low. The studies suggest that the best levels for overall health may be higher than those recommendations, perhaps in the range of 800 to 1,000 IU a day.

If you're concerned about getting adequate vitamin D, talk to your doctor. The safest way to get vitamin D is from foods and dietary supplements. The notion of exposing yourself to sun to increase vitamin D remains extremely controversial because of increased skin cancer risk.

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