Why shorter days call for a dose of Vi­ta­min D

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - CASEY SEIDENBERG

It is of­fi­cially win­ter in our house­hold be­cause I have pulled out the vi­ta­min D sup­ple­ments. My daugh­ter was too young last win­ter to re­mem­ber that she added a vi­ta­min to her morn­ing rou­tine, but my boys knew what it sig­nalled.

In­stead of gob­bling down the vi­ta­mins with­out query as they did last win­ter, my boys fired ques­tions my way as to why they had to take them. I guess this is what teenagers do: They ques­tion their par­ents about ev­ery­thing, even the things they have taken for granted for more than a decade.

I’m OK with their ques­tions. I cer­tainly don’t want them blindly tak­ing vi­ta­mins or pills un­der any other cir­cum­stances, even if pre­scribed by a doc­tor. Ask­ing ques­tions is good. De­mand­ing ex­pla­na­tions is good. Un­der­stand­ing dosages is good.

So, boys, here are the rea­sons I want you to take vi­ta­min D in the win­ter, even though we should get all of our other nu­tri­ents from whole foods.

Our bod­ies nat­u­rally de­rive vi­ta­min D from two main sources: sun­light and food. In the win­ter, there is no way you boys get enough sun­light on your bare skin. The sun is low, the days are short, long sleeves and gloves pre­vail, and you guys, like al­most every­one else in the win­ter, spend a ma­jor­ity of your day in­side. Also, like most kids your age (and most adults for that matter), you do not eat enough of the foods that are nat­u­rally high in vi­ta­min D: fatty fish such as mack­erel, her­ring and salmon, and cod liver oil. Although many brands of milk and orange juice are for­ti­fied with vi­ta­min D, it is still al­most im­pos­si­ble to de­rive enough of it solely from food. Why is vi­ta­min D im­por­tant? Vi­ta­min D is not ac­tu­ally a vi­ta­min but rather a group of hor­mones. You may be sur­prised that I am sug­gest­ing we bring ex­tra hor­mones into our house, but like all hor­mones, these have some pretty im­por­tant jobs. They help the body ab­sorb nu­tri­ents such as cal­cium, iron, mag­ne­sium and zinc. This is why vi­ta­min D is added to cal­ci­um­rich milk. Stud­ies show that only 10 to 15 per cent of cal­cium in food is ab­sorbed with­out vi­ta­min D.

If you boys want to fight off colds this win­ter so you don’t miss any sports games or weekend fun, vi­ta­min D can help boost your im­mune sys­tem. If you would like strong, healthy bones, vi­ta­min D is king. If you don’t want your heart to put­ter out at an early age or your mind to de­te­ri­o­rate, look to vi­ta­min D. It is also shown to pre­vent can­cer by reg­u­lat­ing cel­lu­lar growth.

The cur­rent rec­om­mended daily al­lowance for in­di­vid­u­als ages 1 to 70 is 600 IU, or in­ter­na­tional units, but more re­cent re­search at the Bos­ton Univer­sity School of Medicine rec­om­mends up to 2,000 IU. Other stud­ies rec­om­mend even higher lev­els for op­ti­mal health. The con­fu­sion around the ideal daily al­lowance prompted a 2010 large-scale study at a Bos­ton af­fil­i­ate of Har­vard Univer­sity to in­ves­ti­gate whether vi­ta­min D can help pre­vent can­cer, heart dis­ease, stroke and other chronic con­di­tions in more than 25,000 Amer­i­can men and women. The study is ex­pected to wrap up later this year.

Be­cause one glass of milk pro­vides just 100 IU of vi­ta­min D, a piece of salmon of­fers 360 IU and an egg yolk un­der 50 IU, even the low­est rec­om­men­da­tion of 600 IU a day is hard for most chil­dren to at­tain with­out reg­u­lar sun ex­po­sure. No won­der so many stud­ies show a vast num­ber of kids in the United States, es­pe­cially ado­les­cents and those liv­ing in north­ern states, are de­fi­cient. So un­til the spring comes, the sun shines steadily, and you guys get off the in­door bas­ket­ball court and onto the out­door base­ball field, a vi­ta­min D sup­ple­ment will join us for break­fast each morn­ing.


Un­til the sun re­turns, Vi­ta­min D sup­ple­ments may be a good idea.

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