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Take your vitamin D this winter

Take your vitamin D this winter
Joan Munoz, of Rochester, is a registered and licensed dietitian.

You may be surprised to know that according to many experts, everyone in the state of Minnesota should take a vitamin D supplement from now through April.

Our primary source of vitamin D is the sun, but from October until April, the sun’s rays aren't strong enough to provide vitamin D.

Often people avoid the sun, fearing skin damage, but we need to remember that sunlight powers nearly all life on earth. Dr. John Cannell, of the nonprofit Vitamin D Council , based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., says, "Humans make thousands of units of vitamin D within minutes of whole body exposure to sun. From what we know of nature, it is unlikely such a system evolved by chance."

Adequate vitamin D is almost impossible to get from your diet. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and some foods like milk are fortified with only small quantities of vitamin D. The only good food source is fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna.

Vitamin D is important because every tissue in our body needs it to function properly.

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Although called a vitamin, it is also a hormone, and we know that deficiencies of hormones can have major consequences. New research shows that just mild degrees of vitamin D deficiency contribute to a wide variety of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune disorders including diabetes and multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, heart disease and more.

Dr. Robert Heaney from the Osteoporosis Center at Creighton Medical University in Omaha, says, "All of these diseases have many other causes as well, and vitamin D deficiency probably acts by making us more susceptible to the causes of cancer, hypertension, infection, etc. Asking the body to deal with these disorders in the presence of vitamin D deficiency is like asking a fighter to enter battle with one hand tied behind his back."

How much vitamin D should a person take as a supplement during winter? The only way to know exactly is to get your vitamin D or 25(OH)D level tested.

Not all insurance companies will pay for this, so it's good to check your coverage first.

The normal range is 25-100ng/mL, and the ideal level is 40-60ng/mL. As a general rule, Dr. Heaney recommends adults take 2000 IU vitamin D per day, and 4000 IU or more if levels came back low. Children would need 600-1000 IU per day.

Vitamin D does not cost much and is widely available; you should purchase vitamin D3, since it's the most active form. For children, vitamin D3 can be purchased as gummies, chews or in liquid form.

So remember to take your vitamin D this winter and you should have a D-lightfully healthy holiday season and winter.

As Dr. Greg Plotnikoff, medical director at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, says, "Vitamin D represents the single most cost-effective medical intervention in the United States."

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