At least 50% of the people reading these words have a vitamin D deficiency. That's even true if you live in Florida! I know that's hard to believe, but that's what the research is showing. Because of these facts, it's a pretty good idea that you know what your vitamin D level is because a tremendous amount of research is showing that not only are most people deficient but that lack of vitamin D increases our risk of several diseases . If you go to your doctor and ask him/her I want my vitamin D levels checked, its possible they may do the wrong test by accident so let me give you some information to help you when you speak to your doctor.
What Vitamin D test should I get?
If you ask your doctor for a vitamin D test, they may measure the active form of vitamin D. This is called 1,25 vitamin D but you may also see it listed on blood tests as 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol. According to vitamin D researcher, Dr. Michael Holick, author of The Vitamin D Solution, this form may appear normal or even elevated when you are low in vitamin D. Because of this, Dr Holick recommends that people ask for a test of their 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D Levels?
According to Dr Holick, people should aim for a vitamin D level of above 30 nanograms per milliliter (30 ng/ml). Currently there is no conclusive proof that people need levels more than 100 ng/ml.
Vitamin D risk factors?
What causes vitamin D deficiency? By now, most of us have heard that lack of sunlight can lower vitamin D levels. Because of that, wearing sunscreens also increases the risk The good news is that it doesn't take much sunlight to ramp up vitamin D. If you were only in the sun for about 10 minutes a few times a week that would do the trick. Besides lack of sunlight here are two other things that can lead to lack of vitamin D:
- Obesity/being overweight
- Having dark skin
The reason that being overweight can lead to low vitamin D levels is that vitamin D is fat soluble. In other words, it is stored inside fat cells. So, people who are overweight are storing vitamin D and preventing it from getting to all the other cells that need it.
Having dark colored skin gives people a natural SPF. The darker the skin, the greater the SPF protection.
One group that usually does not get any attention when it comes to vitamin D are those in the military who serve on submarines. These men and women spend months underwater. I bet that most of them probably have low levels of vitamin D. I hope the military gives vitamin D supplements to submariners.
Still another group that gets little vitamin D attention are Muslims. Female Muslims in particular tend to wear garments that cover over 90% of their body. This would reduce sun exposure and hence vitamin D levels. Here is a study of vitamin D levels in Muslims.
Vitamin D Supplements
If you look at supplements you may quickly realize that there are two different types of vitamin D:
- Vitamin D 2 (also called ergocalciferol)
- Vitamin D 3 (also called cholecalciferol)
Both of these types will raise your blood levels of vitamin D. Research does show that vitmain D 3 (cholecalciferol) may be more potent. But several studies also show that vitamin D2 helps us also. For example, studies show that vitamin D supplements can reduce falls in older women by as much as 22%. Most of these studies have used vitamin D 2. I personally use vitamin D 3 supplements but ask your doctor or dietitian what they feel is best for you.
How much vitamin D to take?
There are a lot of people saying that we should take 1000 IU of vitamin D a day. While that's probably safe for most people, for others it may not be enough, so this is what I suggest: Get your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor and when you know that, ask your doctor what vitamin D dosage in supplements they feel is best for you (800 IU, 1000 IU, 2000 IU etc).
Then, in a few months, get your vitamin D levels checked again to see if the supplement is working. It's important to remember that vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin. In other words, vitamin D does MANY things. As such, more is not always a good thing. In fact some researchers say caution should be used with vitamin D supplements because of possible side effects.
Because of this I think its best to get your vitamin D levels checked BEFORE you start taking vitamin D supplements. The book, Vitamin D Solution helps people ask the right questions of their doctor when they get their vitamin D levels tested.
If you are vitamin D deficient, its also important to address the problems that are causing the deficiency. In other words, are you lacking vitamin D because you are overweight or because you're not getting enough sun? Supplements can help but it's best to attack this problem from a holistic approach.
What do you think?