How Does Vitamin D Affect Womens Health
Sometimes a little bit of sunshine is the best medicine. A walk in the park or a bike ride probably puts you in a good mood, and a moderate amount of sun is also good for your physical health. While youre outside soaking up rays, your body is busy making vitamin D. Thats good news, because this hormone thats boosted by exposure to sunlight plays an important role in womens health.
We have known for a long time about vitamin Ds critical role in bone health. More recently, though, vitamin D has been linked to having a potential role in a number of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, inflammation and autoimmune disease.
Erin Michos, M.D., associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, explains why vitamin D is important for womens health and how to make sure youre getting enough.
What Are The New Dris For Calcium
The DRIs for calcium are based on evidence related to bone health, largely from the results of calcium balance studies. Calcium balance, which can be positive, neutral or negative, compares total calcium intake with urinary and fecal excretion of calcium. It is used to determine the accumulation and level of bone mass.
|Adequate Intake rather than Recommended Dietary Allowance.|
The IOM report states that there are no additional health benefits associated with calcium intakes above the level of the new RDA.
Total calcium intake should remain below the level of the new UL to avoid possible adverse effects. Long-term intakes above the UL increase the risk of adverse health effects, such as kidney stones.
Good Sources Of Vitamin D
From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to make all the vitamin D they need from sunlight.
The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.
But between October and early March we do not make enough vitamin D from sunlight. Read more about vitamin D and sunlight.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods.
- fortified foods such as some fat spreads and breakfast cereals
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.
In the UK, cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it is not fortified, as it is in some other countries.
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Why Is Vitamin D So Important
Calcium gets most of the credit for maintaining strong, healthy bones, but vitamin D is also a key player in bone health.
“You can have all the calcium in the world, it doesnt get absorbed into your bones” without vitamin D, Donald Ford, MD, a family medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic, tells Health. That’s vitamin D’s jobwithout it, the calcium you get from yogurt, cheese, and even vegetables like broccoli wouldn’t get absorbed, and ultimately wouldn’t do much in terms of keeping your bones strong. Vitamin D can also help prevent against osteoporosis, which makes your bones brittle, and a vitamin D deficiency can contribute to a gradual loss of strength of bones over time, Dr. Ford says.
As far as a daily dosage of vitamin D goes, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600-1000 IU of Vitamin D daily to meet 95% of the populations needs, says Tania Elliott, MD, an instructor of clinical medicine at NYU Langone. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get the recommended amount each dayhere’s how.
Can Vitamin D Prevent Or Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Cardiovascular Disease Taking vitamin D supplements does not reduce the risk ofheart attack, stroke, or death from heart disease, according to the findings of a randomized, controlled clinical trial involving more than 25,000 participants that was published in the aforementioned January 2019 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Cancer In the same study, researchers found that vitamin D supplementation was not found to reduce the risk of cancer in participants overall. However, those who had developed cancer and were taking vitamin D were less likely to die early than those who took a placebo. Researchers also found a possible reduction in cancer risk for African Americans, and they called for further study to confirm those results.
Rheumatoid arthritis A small observational study of 44 people with RA and 25 controls found that vitamin D deficiency appeared to be more prevalent among people with RA, suggesting these people may benefit from taking a supplement. But a separate small randomized, controlled trial found that while a vitamin D supplement helped people with RA build stronger bones than the control group, the supplements didnt result in other expected health improvements.
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Clinical Trials To The Rescue
Th is dearth of evidence is likely to change soon for vitamin D because large, randomized clinical trials are already in the pipeline. Manson is a principal investigator of the largest one. The VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL is testing the effects of taking 2,000 IU in supplements per day versus placebo in almost 26,000 adults over age 50.The primary focus is on prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease, but data will be collected on a host of other disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, cognitive decline, depression, respiratory disorders, and autoimmune diseases. Its an ongoing five-year trial, with preliminary results expected in about three years.
Another multi-year trial based at Tufts University will test whether daily supplements of 4,000 IUs will prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people with prediabetes. Both trials are sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
When To See A Doctor
Having a vitamin D deficiency could be caused by or cause serious health conditions. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are essential for maintaining healthy bones. A deficiency can lead to inadequate calcium absorption that can cause osteoporosis, osteopenia, or rickets in children.
Rickets can be serious for childrens bone health because it causes soft bones and skeletal deformities. Osteomalacia is the same condition but for adults, which sometimes leads to falls and broken bones that are hard to heal. With osteoporosis, bones become thinner and are therefore more likely to break or cause posture issues.
Sometimes, being deficient in vitamin D isnt just caused by not getting enough sunshine. Certain health conditions affect how the body absorbs or processes the vitamin. Kidney and liver diseases can lower the amount of an enzyme that the body needs to use vitamin D. Celiac disease, Crohns disease, and cystic fibrosis all cause the intestines to absorb less vitamin D. Even being overweight can lead to a deficiency because fat cells store vitamin D, keeping it from being easily used.
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Symptoms Of Too Much Vitamin D
Some signs that you might be getting an excessive amount of vitamin D include:
- Appetite loss
If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Be sure to tell them which supplements, medications, and substances you are taking, including the dosages of each. If your doctor suspects that your symptoms might be linked to too much vitamin D, they may administer lab tests to check your blood serum levels.
Vitamin D toxicity can result in other consequences, including kidney and bone problems. Your doctor may also look for signs of the following problems that can be caused by excess vitamin D.
How Much Vitamin D Should You Take For Optimal Health
Vitamin D is essential for good health.
Its often referred to as the sunshine vitamin and is made in your skin when exposed to sunlight.
Despite that, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world.
Up to 42% of the American adult population has low vitamin D levels, which can cause health problems (
Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and immune system function.
This article discusses how much vitamin D you need.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin thats involved in many essential body functions.
There are two forms of vitamin D in the diet and supplements:
- Vitamin D2 : found in some mushrooms.
- Vitamin D3 : found in oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks.
D3 is the more powerful of the two types and raises vitamin D levels almost twice as much as D2 .
Significant amounts of vitamin D can also be made in your skin when exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Any excess vitamin D is stored in your body fat for later use.
Almost every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D. Its essential to many processes, including bone health, immune system function, and can help protect against cancer (
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How Much Vitamin D Do I Need
In November 2010, the Institute of Medicine’s expert committee set a new “dietary reference intake” for vitamin D.
Assuming that a person gets virtually no vitamin D from sunshine — and that this person gets adequate amounts of calcium — the IOM committee recommends getting the following amounts of vitamin D from diet or supplements :
- Infants age 0 to 6 months: adequate intake, 400 IU/day maximum safe upper level of intake, 1,000 IU/day
- Infants age 6 to 12 months: adequate intake, 400 IU/day maximum safe upper level of intake, 1,500 IU/day
- Age 1-3 years: adequate intake, 600 IU/day maximum safe upper level of intake, 2,500 IU/day
- Age 4-8 years: adequate intake, 600 IU/day maximum safe upper level of intake, 3,000 IU/day
- Age 9-70: adequate intake, 600 IU/day maximum safe upper level of intake, 4,000 IU/day
- Age 71+ years: adequate intake, 800 IU/day maximum safe upper level of intake, 4,000 IU/day
That’s not enough, says Boston University vitamin D expert Michael Holick, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics, Boston University Medical Center. Holick recommends a dose of 1,000 IU a day of vitamin D for both infants and adults — unless they’re getting plenty of safe sun exposure.
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that breastfed infants receive 400 IU of vitamin D every day until they are weaned. This doubled the AAP’s previous recommendation.
What Process Did The Iom Use To Conduct Its Review
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine put together a committee of scientific experts for this review of vitamin D and calcium in January 2009. As in previous DRI reviews conducted by the Food and Nutrition Board of the IOM, the expert panel reviewing the latest science related to vitamin D and calcium was made up of experts from both Canada and the U.S.
The IOM’s process for the review of data on vitamin D and calcium was rigorous. The 14-member expert committee gathered background information on the metabolism of vitamin D and calcium throughout the life cycle. Then, using a risk assessment approach, they identified potential health-outcome indicators for establishing DRIs. Important documents for this phase were the two evidence-based systematic reviews conducted by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality on the effectiveness and safety of vitamin D in relation to bone health and the relationships of vitamin D and calcium intakes to nutrient status indicators and health outcomes, conducted at the request of the U.S. and Canadian governments. The committee also performed their own systematic review of scientific literature and identified other relevant studies.
Canadian data from the Canadian Community Health Survey Cycle 2.2, Nutrition, and the Canadian Health Measures Survey were used in the IOM review.
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Advice For Infants And Young Children
The Department of Health and Social Care recommends that babies from birth to 1 year of age should have a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if they are:
- formula-fed and are having less than 500ml of infant formula a day, as infant formula is already fortified with vitamin D
Children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year.
You can buy vitamin D supplements or vitamin drops containing vitamin D at most pharmacies and supermarkets.
Women and children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D.
See the Healthy Start website for more information.
Vitamins And Minerals For Older Adults
Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 essential vitamins vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins .
Vitamins have different jobs to help keep the body working properly. Some vitamins help you resist infections and keep your nerves healthy, while others may help your body get energy from food or help your blood clot properly. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food.
Like vitamins, minerals also help your body function. Minerals are elements that our bodies need to function that can be found on the earth and in foods. Some minerals, like iodine and fluoride, are only needed in very small quantities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most minerals.
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Advice For Adults And Children Over 4 Years Old
During the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D.
But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can make all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet.
You may choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
What Is Vitamin D And Why Is It Important
Vitamin D belongs to the family of fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins are absorbed well with fat and are stored in the liver and fatty tissues.
There are two main forms of vitamin D in the diet:
- Vitamin D2 : Found in plant foods like mushrooms.
- Vitamin D3 : Found in animal foods like salmon, cod and egg yolks.
However, sunlight is the best natural source of vitamin D3. The UV rays from sunlight convert cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D3 .
Before your body can use dietary vitamin D, it must be activated through a series of steps .
First, the liver converts dietary vitamin D into the storage form of vitamin D. This is the form that is measured in blood tests. Later, the storage form is converted by the kidneys to the active form of vitamin D thats used by the body .
Interestingly, D3 is twice as effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D as vitamin D2 .
The main role of vitamin D in the body is to manage blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are important for healthy bones .
Research also shows that vitamin D aids your immune system and may reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers .
A low blood level of vitamin D is linked to a greater risk of fractures and falls, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, several cancers and even death (
For instance, an analysis of five studies examined the link between vitamin D blood levels and colorectal cancer .
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Other Ways To Get Enough Vitamin D
There are other ways to get vitamin D beyond just taking a supplement. Sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D, and so are many foods.
Spending 10 to 20 minutes in the sun provides 1,000-10,000 IUs of vitamin D. The amount of time you should spend in the sun and the number of IUs youll get will vary on the season, where you live in the world, and how dark your skin is. No matter where you are, the short time in the sun that you spend daily should be unexposed so that your body can adequately absorb the light.
Try incorporating vitamin D-rich foods into your diet, too. Here are some options:
- Fatty fish are high in vitamin D.
- Some mushrooms, like portobello and maitake, have proper levels of vitamin D, especially if theyre grown using UV light.
- The United States fortifies milk with vitamin D. Still, raw milk is known to have naturally occurring vitamin D as well. It may even have a higher concentration of nutrients.
What Are Good Sources Of Vitamin D
You can get your vitamin D daily dosage from three main sources: the sun, food, and supplements. While you can spend 10-15 minutes in the sun without sunscreen every day to increase your vitamin D intake, you might be worried about damaging UV rays. Thats why its important to ensure your diet includes plenty of vitamin D-rich foods. Good sources include fatty fish, cod liver oils, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and mushrooms, as well as vitamin D-fortified foods . Finally, taking a vitamin D supplement can fill in any nutritional gaps.
Learn More: How Much Vitamin D Do You Get from the Sun?
The Bottom Line
Vitamin D is important for maintaining bone health, muscle functioning, and immunity. But with up to 40% of U.S. adults having a vitamin D deficiency, you might be wondering, How much vitamin D should I take? The daily dosage depends on a variety of factors , but in general, its recommended that most adults take 15mcg or 600 IU of vitamin D per day.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice or a recommendation for any specific product. Consult your health care provider for more information.
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