We Need More ‘Sunshine Vitamin’: Vitamin D Deficiency May Be More Widespread Than Previously Thought

sunbathing
We derive Vitamin D from the sun — which makes it hard for people living in cold climates to get proper amounts. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A lot has been written about the importance of Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, which we derive from spending time in the sun or eating foods like salmon and egg yolks. Vitamin D provides us with some pretty essential things that manage our health, such as regulation of calcium, phosphorus absorption, strengthening of our bones and teeth, and even bolstering of the immune system.

Plenty has also been written about something called Vitamin D deficiency, which is likely to occur in the northern hemisphere and in the winter months, where people don’t get enough sunlight. But until now, researchers haven’t been too urgent about vitamin D deficiency. For the most part, doctors often suggest that their patients spend 15 minutes a day in the sun during summer months, then supplement that with eating vitamin D-rich foods and even taking supplement pills.

In a new study, however, researchers from the U.S. and Canada state that vitamin D deficiency is a lot more widespread than previously thought, and the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the vitamin is 10 times lower than what we actually need. The researchers are challenging the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which are responsible for the RDA. In a paper published in Nutrients, the scientists state there’s an error in the RDA and it should be fixed.

“The error has broad implications for public health regarding disease prevention and achieving the stated goal of ensuring that the whole population has enough vitamin D to maintain bone health,” Dr. Cederic Garland, an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego, and an author of the study, said in the press release.

According to the current RDA, recommended vitamin D intake should be around 600 IU per day for kids and adults, and for older people aged 70 and over it should be about 800 IU per day. But the researchers note that this is only about one-tenth of what people should really be getting.

“Calculations by us and other researchers have shown that these doses are only about one-tenth those needed to cut incidence of disease related to vitamin D deficiency,” Garland said in the press release. “This intake is well below the upper level specified by IOM as safe for teens and adults, 10,000 IU/day.”

The health experts will likely argue over this until changes are made to the RDA, or perhaps it will stay the same. Regardless, you can take some steps to improve your chances against vitamin D deficiency. Get sunshine, eat a vitamin D-rich diet, purchase some vitamin D lamps or take supplements in order to boost your vitamin D levels.

Source: Veugelers P, Ekwaru J. “A Statistical Error in the Estimation of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D.” Nutrients, 2015.

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