The Vitamin D Debate

Article from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Health Solutions, Healthy Living Fall 2014 E-Newsletter

Although vitamin D has been the subject of some 25,000 scentific studies since 2000, researchers still go back and forth about how much vitamin D we need, whther taking supplements is beneficial and what constitutes a deficiency.

Some studies have found that people who were deficient in the vitamin had an increased risk of hip fractures, cancer, heart disease and stroke. However, a recent study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology challenged whether taking a supplement can reduce the risk of developing these conditions.

What We Know

Several undisputed facts about vitamin D include:

  • It’s a fat-soluble vitamin that is found in only a few foods. Some of the best sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon and mackerel. Cheese and egg yolks provide small amounts of the vitamin.
  • Our bodies make the vitamin D when sunlight shines on our skin.
  • It improves the body’s ability to absorb calcium and it’s needed to keep our bones healthy and strong. It also helps modulate cell growth, promotes immune function and reduces inflammation.

What We Don’t Know

A few of the unanswered questions about vitamin D include:

  • How much vitamin D should we ingest every day? Recommended does for adults ages 18 to 70 range from 600 IUs to 5,000 IUs.
  • What blood levels constitute a deficiency? Blood tests can confirm how much vitamin D is circulating in the blood, but not the levels that indicate a better health outcome.

The Bottom Line

A major study of 24,000 people hopes to address these unanswered questions. It should be complete by 2017. Until then, talk with your doctor. He or she can make a recommendation tailored to your particular situation.