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Benton Evening News - Benton, IL
  • Vitamin D:?Are we getting enough?

  • Spring has arrived, and the sun is starting to stay out longer. “This extra sun may make us happier, and it may also make us healthier,” says Jenna Hogan, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.



    Our bodies make vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” when the natural light hits our skin.


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  • Spring has arrived, and the sun is starting to stay out longer. “This extra sun may make us happier, and it may also make us healthier,” says Jenna Hogan, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.
    Our bodies make vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” when the natural light hits our skin. Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and helps deposit these two minerals in bones and teeth to make them stronger. However, recent research suggests that vitamin D is not only good for bone health, but it may also help prevent ills such as heart disease and diabetes. This research has gotten many health professionals wondering exactly how much vitamin D we should have.   
    The current recommendation for infants, children and adults up to age 50 is 200 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day, which is equivalent to 2 to 3 cups of vitamin D fortified milk. Adults 51 to 70 years of age need 4 cups, and those over 70 need 6 cups. That’s a lot of milk! 
    Obviously, there are other sources besides milk and the sun to get vitamin D. Canned salmon and sardines, liver and egg yolks contain vitamin D. Some fortified breakfast cereals, margarines and orange juices also contain the vitamin, but in small amounts.
    Hogan warns that we should not count on sun exposure to give us all the vitamin D we need. In general, it takes 20 to 40 minutes of sun three times a week on our hands, arms and face to give us enough. Sunscreen blocks vitamin D absorption, but that is no excuse for doing without protection when staying in the sunrays for long periods of time. People who are older, have darker skin, live in northern climates, and who are not exposed to the outdoors are at a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency. In fact, as many as half of all adults and children are said to have less than the recommend levels, and as many as 10 percent of children are highly deficient in vitamin D, according to a 2008 report in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
    “Try to get your vitamin D from food sources before taking supplements,” says Hogan. However, if you feel that you are not getting enough or you have any of the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, you may benefit from a supplement. First, talk with your doctor about testing for vitamin D deficiency and to determine whether a supplement is right for you.
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