Winters in Grand County offer a lot of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. There’s so many wonderful things to do here, such as fishing, skiing, snowmobiling – you name it. But, getting out means gearing up and protecting your skin from the elements. On cold winter days, you’re covered head to toe in clothing and equipment that keeps you warm and safe. As a result, you aren’t getting the same amount of Vitamin D as you would in summer because winter clothing and snowy, overcast days limit your sun exposure.
But, should you be concerned about your Vitamin D levels? And, if so, how much Vitamin D should you
Vitamin D: What It Is & Why You Need It
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is necessary for healthy bones.
Your body makes Vitamin D when sunlight reacts with natural chemicals in your skin. You don’t need to tan your skin to get Vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin to direct sunlight for a short period.
How much vitamin D your body produces at any given time depends on several factors, including how much of your skin is exposed, the strength of the sun (think altitude!) and whether you’re using sunscreen.
The current recommended daily amount of Vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children up to 12 months, 600 IU for people up to 70 years, and 800 IU for adults over 70.
According to a 2011 report published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, you can get up to 22,000 IU of Vitamin D, or the equivalent of 55 days of your recommended daily allowance in one summer day.
New Evidence About Vitamin D & Screening Standards
Over the past decade, there’s been a lot of discussion about Vitamin D.
In addition to being good for your bones, Vitamin D has been thought to prevent certain types of cancer and reduce the risk for diabetes. According to the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force vitamin recommendation statement in 2014, there have also been claims that Vitamin D helped combat depression, fatigue, osteoarthritis and chronic pain.
Your doctor may have even ordered a routine Vitamin D screening at your last physical. And, based on the current minimums, you probably tested low, resulting in the recommendation that you take a Vitamin D supplement.
But recently, these claims have come under scrutiny and are now being reviewed with a critical eye. That’s mostly because the underlying research was based on limited data that doesn’t hold true for even the lowest levels of
Vitamin D. Now there’s new information available. For example, researchers have learned that Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin!
In addition, the previous testing standards may have been too conservative. According to current thresholds, the normal lower limit for a Vitamin D test is 30. But, in actuality, your Vitamin D levels can be as low as 12-20 and still be considered healthy, according to an article written in 2008 by MF Holick & TC Chen at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Most Healthy Adults Don’t Need Vitamin D
Testing or Supplements
So, should you have your Vitamin D levels tested? And if so, what amount of Vitamin D should you be getting?
Medical experts at the US Preventive Services Task Force now recommend against screening for Vitamin D deficiency in healthy adults. The tests aren’t medically necessary in most cases and removing it from standard screenings could reduce medical costs. According to a study done by the US Department of Health & Human Services, Medicare covered $323 million dollars in lab costs for Vitamin D screenings in 2014. These costs were associated with routine examinations, not testing that was done when patients were sick or suffering from symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency.
In fact, recent evidence shows that most healthy adults don’t need to supplement their Vitamin D intake at all. The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D of 600-800 IU per day really reflects the amount needed by unhealthy adults or seniors with existing bone disease. According to the Institute of Medicine Committee’s 2011 Review of Vitamin D and Calcium Intake (Committee’s 2011 Review) most healthy adults need 400 IU of
Vitamin D per day, but only when they have little to
no sun exposure.
And, the IOM Committee’s 2011 Review found that adding more Vitamin D may actually cause more harm than good. Overconsumption of Vitamin D may result in kidney stones, kidney damage, heart damage and soft tissue calcifications.
Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D from Natural Sources
So, unless you’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition, such as rickets or osteomalcia, forget about Vitamin D testing and supplements. Instead, get your daily dose of Vitamin D by going outside and spending some time in the sun. You can also eat foods rich in Vitamin D, including fatty fish, egg yolks, or mushrooms. You can also find foods fortified with Vitamin D like milk, orange juice, and oatmeal.