NYS Certified Nutritionist

The Importance of Vitamin D

For more than a decade I’ve been discussing the importance of Vitamin D with my clients, urging them to have their serum 25 OH Vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test.  The response often is, “I take lots of supplemental Vitamin D, my diet is great, and I spend lots of time outdoors.”  My concern with this attitude is that it is not based on science.

Vitamin D is produced by the skin [our largest organ] when it is exposed to sunlight.  The issue is that our bodies don’t produce vitamins at all.  They produce hormones, and Vitamin D was actually mis-named when it was discovered.  It is a hormone.  According to a doctor I know, it should have been named “Derma-sterone,” or skin hormone.  Like the other hormones we produce, D is vital to our normal functioning, and there is a receptor site for it on every cell in the body.  With inadequate amounts of D, the cells can malfunction.

Studies show that those of us living north of the latitude of Atlanta are likely to have a Vitamin D deficiency.  We are further away from the equator’s bright sunlight, and we know that certain illnesses are more likely to occur the further north or south of the equator we live.  In addition, we are clothed, wearing SPF factors in our lotions and make-up, all of which protect us from the sun’s cancer-causing rays.  Mother Nature  intended that we would be naked and foraging for our food near the equator.  This life-style would have insured that we would produce enough protective Vitamin D.  Because this is impossible today, we need to be vigilant.

The reference range in most labs for Vitamin D is 30-100.  Endocrinologists [the hormone experts] often say the safe range would be 45-65.  Once you know your number, you can either be treated with prescription strength Vitamin D2 or take over-the-counter Vitamin D3 to achieve the safe D range.  Repeated blood tests are required every 6-8 weeks to see if the numbers are near target.  Once there, the blood tests need to be repeated several times to see if a maintenance dose schedule can be determined that keeps the 25 OH Vitamin D level in the safe range.

If all this sounds complicated…it’s not.  It’s no more complicated than monitoring thyroid hormone levels or iron levels in the blood.  But, if we have adequate Vitamin D levels we can reduce one of the risks for many conditions including – Type II diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, cancer, MS, and more.  While fish can have significant amounts of Vitamin D, as can fortified dairy, grain and orange juice products, most of us need to rely on supplementation to get enough.  Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble “vitamin,” it must be taken with a source of fat.  It is never wise to take any supplements on an empty stomach with AM orange juice and coffee.  Always take them with a balanced meal.