Missing the sun? Prof says it's a bright idea to think about Vitamin D

February 20, 2014  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The gray winter skies are a reminder that people should consider supplementing Vitamin D levels to ensure they maintain strong bones, says a Purdue University nutrition expert.

"Those who live in Indiana and other Midwest communities should be seasonally supplementing," says James Fleet, distinguished professor of nutrition science, who studies how Vitamin D controls calcium. "That's not a surprise to most people. But, people also need to consider supplementing year round if they follow sun safety practices, have darker skin tones or are older."

Sunlight can simulate Vitamin D production, but skin cancer concerns have many people staying out of the sun or blocking the sun's rays. As a result, people are not getting adequate Vitamin D, also known as cholecalciferol, during sunny weather, Fleet says.

"If you are avoiding sunlight or apply sunscreen regularly, you should worry about Vitamin D to protect your bone health," Fleet says.

And as people age, they lose the ability to make vitamin D in the skin.

"At the same time, older adults' bones are becoming weaker, especially for postmenopausal women, so it is critical that vitamin D is consumed adequately to preserve bone health," Fleet says.

In 2010 the federal Vitamin D recommendations were updated, and the recommended vitamin D intakes for individuals are measured in international units, abbreviated as IU:

* Children, birth to age 13 at 400 international units

* Teens and adults, ages 14 to 70 at 600 international units

* Adults 71 years and older at 800 international units

Purdue Extension online information, Vitamin D: What You Need to Know, also has information about foods that provide Vitamin D and the highest recommended amounts for safety. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: James Fleet, 765-494-0302, fleet@purdue.edu 

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