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Vitamin D Guidelines May Be Too Low for Women

Recommendations for daily vitamin D intake may be too low to prevent deficiencies in some women, according to a recent study.

The study found that during the winter, many women in Canada had insufficient blood levels of vitamin D despite consuming in their milk or dietary supplements more than 200 international units (IU) daily, the recommended intake for adults younger than 50 years of age.

Vitamin D, which helps the body to absorb calcium, is added to milk and is also made by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. But a lack of sunlight in northern latitudes means that dietary intake becomes even more crucial to prevent rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.

During the winter, at least 20% of the 800 women in the study had low blood concentrations of vitamin D, even if they had been consuming 200 IU or more of vitamin D daily.

During the summer, however, women who took multivitamins had higher blood concentrations of vitamin D. The researchers explain that women who were physically active and engaged in outdoor activities where they were exposed to sunlight were also more likely to take multivitamins that contained some vitamin D.

People with darker skin are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency because they need more sunlight to trigger the reaction in the skin that makes vitamin D. However, all women could benefit from more vitamin D in the diet regardless of their skin tone or country of residence, the researchers said.

Low vitamin D levels are a side effect of our modern lifestyle because we spend most of our time indoors and often wear protective clothing or sunscreen when we are outside, thus shielding ourselves from the sunlight needed by our bodies to produce vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a hormone-like substance that beneficially influences numerous vital functions in your body. If your levels are low, your health is at risk.

However, don't consume mega-doses of vitamin D unless you are under a doctor's supervision. Vitamin D may be toxic in extremely high doses or if your liver function is impaired.

Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2001;55:1091-1097.