New research on vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” suggests that adequate vitamin D intake may lower the risk of colon cancer, heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes, falls, and some autoimmune diseases. Researchers from Wake Forest University have recently found that higher amounts of vitamin D are needed to preserve muscle strength and physical function.
The newly released RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for vitamin D suggests 600 IU for those under the age of 70 and 800 IU for those over the age of 70. Vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to sunlight and in the food that we eat. Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, and cod liver oils) is one of the few types of food that naturally contains vitamin D. Milk has vitamin D added during processing, and contains 100 IU per cup; all milk (skim, 1%, 2% and whole) contain the same vitamin D. If you don’t drink milk, choose orange juice fortified
with vitamin D.
Exposing your hands, face, and arms to direct sun for 5-15 minutes three times a week allows your skin to synthesize adequate vitamin D. Despite the increased RDA, additional exposure to sunlight is not recommended and use of sunscreen is still encouraged; the new RDA for vitamin D was based on minimal sun exposure.
Individuals living in the upper one-third of the United States can have difficulty maintaining adequate vitamin D in the winter months, and most
adults in those regions should consider a vitamin D supplement. Talk with your healthcare provider for specific guidance on vitamin D intake.