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Vitamin D: The Robin to Calcium’s Batman

Filed Under: Vitamins and Minerals at 9:33 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
SunriseWhen we walk outside and feel the sun soaking into our skin, warming us, we are doing more than enjoying a bright day; we are letting in some vitamin D. The same thing happens when we consume fortified milk, cheese and yogurt. Vitamin D is present in our lives via cloudless days and certain foods. However, some people need more than they get naturally.  Older adults, overweight individuals , breast-fed babies and people with limited sun exposure, dark skin or fat malabsorption problems are all at risk for vitamin D deficiency. They are advised to find ways to get more, whether through increased sun exposure, a changed diet or supplements. But, why? What does vitamin D do for you? 

Studies have shown that when taken in conjunction with calcium, vitamin D can help reduce the risk of fracture in older adults, more so than just calcium would. Researchers analyzed 29 studies involving nearly 64,000 individuals over the age of 50. Those who took a daily dose of 1200 mg of calcium and 800 International Units of vitamin D saw their fracture risk decrease by nearly a quarter. And those who had begun taking the supplements earlier on in life saw even better results, thus proving that calcium and vitamin D are a winning combination whose benefits increase with age.  However, vitamin D does not need calcium to produce positive effects. It can and does stand alone.

A recent examination of the effects of vitamin D on cancer has led scientists to announce that an increased intake of vitamin D3 could prevent 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer worldwide.  In the United States alone, that would mean 150,000 fewer diagnoses and that many more saved lives. All people need to do to work towards this change is, each day, ingest 2,000 International Units of vitamin D and spend a few minutes outside with about 40 percent of their skin exposed. The latter can be difficult for people living in northern countries, due to reduced sun and a cooler climate (i.e. less skin exposure), but if they can find a way to get the recommended amount of vitamin D they would reap the benefits even more so than those below the equator.

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