Vitamin D: The Vital Vitamin

When it comes to vitamin D, more is oftentimes, well, more

Vitamin D is actually more like a hormone in its actions, and it is linked to many health benefits. In fact, vitamin D may:

  • reduce the incidence of prostate and breast cancer with appropriate intake
  • improve physical performance in older adults who have higher blood levels of the vitamin
  • improve mood
  • decrease depression when taken as a supplement

In addition, a Harvard University study showed that men with low levels of vitamin D are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease or suffer a heart attack than men who have what’s considered sufficient levels in their blood. Plus, vitamin D enhances the absorption of calcium and is absolutely critical for strong bones.

But wait—as the TV commercials say—there’s more. A study of 13,000 people recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found further evidence of the power of D; it may help you live longer! Researchers analyzed a large sample of men and women and compared the risk of death over a specific length of time between those with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood and those with the highest. Those who took the lowest amount of vitamin D experienced a 26 percent increased rate of death (from any cause whatsoever) during the time frame of the study when compared with those whose intake of the vitamin put them in the highest 25 percentile.

Fat Blocks Vitamin D

Since vitamin D is stored in fat cells, you’d think that if you were very overweight, you’d have plenty of the stuff and wouldn’t need supplements. Actually, the opposite may be true. According to vitamin D expert Michael Holick, M.D., Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine, obese people may have problems releasing vitamin D from their fat cells, so they may be at greater risk for deficiencies than the rest of us. Confirmation comes from a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that obese subjects did indeed have significantly lower vitamin D concentrations in their blood than age-matched people who are not classified as obese.

Your Day in the Sun

There’s a strong movement to at least double the amount of recommended vitamin D, which up to now has been generally accepted as 400 IU a day for adults. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends doubling the amounts currently established for infants and children. Many experts feel adults should be getting 1,000 IU, and some suggest even higher levels, particularly during winter months. The best solution? Try to get 10 minutes of sun exposure on your arms and legs three times a week, and take a supplement daily.

Recommendations for sun and supplements depend on time of day, season, latitude and skin pigmentation, according to Dr. Holick. He says he personally gets 10 minutes of midday summer sun on his arms and legs three times a week. He also takes a 1,000 IU supplement and receives an additional 400 IU in his multivitamin.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 24 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 06 Nov 2014