by Debbie Jones,

Northeastern Rural Health Clinics

Vitamin D

Medical providers at Northeastern Rural Health Clinics in Susanville are paying close attention to recent research studies indicating that many people may be deficient in Vitamin D.  Vitamin D has come into the spotlight recently due to research showing that we may not be getting enough.  According to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, the evidence is overwhelming that Vitamin D affects not only bone health but may be associated with diabetes, infection, insulin resistance and various cancers.  Further study is warranted to determine the exact connection between low Vitamin D levels and these conditions.  Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium so it’s no surprise that giving people Vitamin D improves bone mass and strength, reduces bone fractures and improves balance and muscle performance.  But that may not be all it does.

Your skin makes Vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (unless you’re wearing sunscreen).  However, those living in northern California may not get enough UV light to make Vitamin D from late fall to early spring.  People who spend most of the day indoors during the summer may not be getting enough UV rays either.  You can get some Vitamin D from food sources, but probably not enough.

It has been over 10 years since the Institute of Medicine issued the latest recommendations of 200 to 600 International Units (IU) per day depending on your age.  Those levels were based on how much it would take to prevent rickets, the disease characterized by bowed or deformed bones, not necessarily the amount needed to promote optimal health.   Current research indicates that higher doses are necessary to reach the optimal levels.

Northeastern Rural Health Clinics’ Medical Director, Naomi Rea FNP recommends having a Vitamin D level test added to your standard lab values at your next physical.  She says “You may need to take more Vitamin D than what you are currently getting in your current vitamin regimen.”  Be sure to ask your medical provider how much is right for you based on your lab results.