Vitamin D has been seen as the cure all for everything from reduced heart disease and arthritis risk to increased immunity and brain function. However, many of these claims are difficult to prove. Most of these suggestions come from studies linking low vitamin D with increased risk of disease and even death. However, it’s also possible that people with lower levels of vitamin D also exercise less, eat worse, and smoke more. Is it really vitamin D that’s responsible for the host of health benefits?
A study published in the February 2016 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine casts more doubt on high vitamin D supplementation. The study looked at 200 people, 70 years of age or greater, who have fallen in the past. Some were given a low dose of vitamin D and some high. After a year, researchers assessed their walking speed, ability to stand up repeatedly from a seated position, and balance. No change was found, and strangely the high vitamin D participants fell more.
What Can Vitamin D Do and How Much Should You Take?
There are numerous studies promoting this vitamin’s health benefits. It’s clear that getting enough vitamin D is essential for bone health, and that severe deficiency of vitamin D can lead to softening of the bones and can increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
What’s less clear is its impact on disease prevention. Researchers from the University of Toronto estimated that we could save up to 50 per cent of our health care budget just by supplementing with adequate vitamin D serum levels. They suggest that the current recommended daily allowances (RDA) of vitamin D are grossly insufficient – remember people used to spend hours a day in the sun in the summer months without sunscreen.
Some experts, such as Dr. Mercola, suggest that adults need 8,000 IUs a day. Some go even higher to 20,000 IUs. Most professional who have researched this matter and who focus on elite performance and health recommend 5,000 IU’s a day as optimal for adults and 2,500 IU’s for kids ages 5-10. How do you know what to do?
The best way it to speak with a naturopathic doctor and get a blood test to determine your body’s current vitamin D levels. They can then prescribe the amount you need to get your body up to the ideal range.