Up to half of American women don't get enough vitamin D, even though this nutrient has significant health benefits. Some experts now recommend a particular form of vitamin D, in amounts significantly higher than current governmental guidelines. You may have a deficiency of vitamin D if you don't get much sunshine, because ultraviolet B (UVB) rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin...if you have dark skin, which is less efficient at converting UVB to vitamin D...or if you have liver or kidney disease or a digestive disorder that impairs vitamin D absorption. Among its benefits. vitamin D may…

  • Lower death rates. Researchers analyzed 18 studies in which 57,000 adults took vitamin D pills or a placebo for about six years.

Result: Vitamin D supplementation cut risk for death by about 7%.

  • Protect against breast, ovarian, colon and other cancers. In a trial involving 1,179 postmenopausal women, participants who took daily vitamin D at 1,100 international units (IU) plus calcium were 60% less likely to develop cancer than those who took a placebo or cal-cium alone.

Reasons: Vitamin D strengthens the immune system and may inhibit out-of-control cancerous cell growth by reducing blood sup-ply to tumors.

  • Strengthen bones by promoting absorp-tion of such nutrients as calcium and phosphorous from the intestines.
  • Help prevent diabetes by improving sug-ar metabolism.
  • Protect against autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, by fighting inflammation. *Lower risk for heart disease and stroke by inhibiting accumulation of artery-clogging plaque.

Current guidelines call for intakes of 200 IU daily until age 50...400 IU between ages 51 and 70...and 600 IU after age 70.

New thinking: Adults should get at least 800 11.1 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily from foods and/or supplements in addition to whatever they get from sunlight. How…

  • Food sources of vitamin 13 include cod liver oil (1,360 IU per tablespoon)...fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna (2001U to 300 113 per three ounces)...fortified milk (100 IU per cup)...and some cereals (about 40 IU per cup).
  • Choose supplements that provide the more active form—vitamin D-3 (cholecalciferol), the type produced by our bodies—rather than the less active D-2 (ergocalciferol) from plants.
  • Don't go overboard. Excessive vitamin D can cause high blood calcium levels, which in turn can contribute to gastrointestinal prob-lems, cognitive impairment, heart rhythm ab-normalities and kidney stones. Multivitamins, calcium pills and osteoporosis drugs often in-clude vitamin D—so check all labels to tally your daily total, making sure not to exceed 2,000 IU per day.

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