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Studies released from the University of Colorado, Denver School of Medicine show that currently 3 out of 4 Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D, often known as the "sunshine vitamin." The ideal level of this vitamin is between 30 and 40 nanograms per milliliter. The percentage of Americans with less than ten nanograms per milliliter has tripled in the last twenty years.


Dr. Adit Ginde notes that recent studies have uncovered numerous roles for vitamin D in addition to the well known role of this vitamin in bone health and the prevention of rickets. Many types of cells show receptors specific for vitamin D and over 100 different genes are known to be regulated by vitamin D. Vitamin D has also been shown to have a significant role in regulating immune system activity as well preventing both cancer, and cardiovascular disease.


Obtaining enough vitamin D is simple. A person need only spend ten minutes in the sun with legs and arms exposed to trigger development of adequate amounts of this vitamin. Dr. Ginde notes however that people have changed sun-exposure habits in response to vigorous campaigns related to the prevention of skin cancers. The diligent use of sunscreen, clothing and hats unfortunately slows the body's production of vitamin D. Also, Americans have become less active over the last twenty years and spend less time out of doors.


Ginde notes that most Americans could actually use more vitamin D. Supplements are beneficial, as are small amounts of sun exposure. Consuming foods that are high in Vitamin D such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna along with dairy products will increase dietary intake of this vitamin. As the significance of vitamin becomes better known, people need to attend to the methods to increase its levels.


We emphasize the dangers of sun exposure to our students and patients. We need to temper this information with responsible explanations of the need for vitamin D and methods to increase the amount of this vitamin to healthy levels.


Source: Stern, A. March 23, 2009. Americans need more Vitamin D: researchers. Reuters. Available at: Accessed March 26, 2009.