The concept of vitamins

To hear doctors and other health experts tell it, vitamin D in important for numerous reasons.

NutritonFacts.org lists eight benefits of vitamin D, including enhanced immunity, reduction in cancer mortality, treatment for painful menstrual periods, and preventing falls, rickets and the common cold.

Other benefits include osteomalacia prevention, reductions in asthma exacerbations, improvement in Chrohn’s disease symptoms and a reduction in fibromyalgia severity.

A recent study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute indicate higher vitamin D levels may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in persons 50 years and younger.

“Vitamin D has known activity against colorectal cancer in laboratory studies,” Kimmie Ng, a co-author of the study, told the Harvard Gazette. “Because vitamin D deficiency has been steadily increasing over the past few years, we wondered whether this could be contributing to the rising rates of colorectal cancer in young individuals.

“We found that total vitamin D intake of 300 IU per day or more — roughly equivalent to three 8-ounce glasses of milk — was associated with an approximately 50 percent lower risk of developing young-onset colorectal cancer.”

Medical News Today states on its website that vitamin D contributes to healthy bones and helps infants stay healthy, among other benefits.

Vitamins from Space

There are different sources from which one can get a healthy amount of vitamin D.

One is free and usually pretty easy to find: The sun.

“Never have to worry about getting too much vitamin D since your body has a way to regulate its production in the skin,” states NutritionFacts. The site adds that benefits may include Co-Q10 regeneration, lower blood pressure, better circulation and an improved mood.

The World Health Organization cautions using tanning beds as a source for vitamin D.

Supplements are also a source of vitamin D, but caution is advised.

“Supplement companies are poorly regulated,” NutritionFacts states. “One investigation found about half the brands came within 10 percent of their labeled amounts.”

There are plenty of recommendations for how much sun to get based on where people are in the world.

In the Michigan area, from February through November, NutritionFacts.com urges 15-30 minutes of midday sun, with only 15 minutes for those with lighter skin and longer for those with darker skin. Or, it’s recommended to take a daily dose of 2,000 IU. In December and January, the 2,000 IU supplemental vitamin D is recommended.

Food-wise, vitamin D3 from plant or animal sources is preferred by the experts over D2 sources from fungi. NutritionFacts also recommends taking vitamin D with the largest meal of the day. People who are overweight might consider taking 3,000 IU daily.

Facty.com states some of the best foods for obtaining vitamin D include fresh fish, cod liver oil, eggs, caviar, mushrooms, fortified milk, fortified orange juice, yogurt, fortified tofu, beef or calf liver, fortified cereal, eel, pork fats and meats, and duck fat.

Webmd.com states duck fat is a better overall alternative to butters and oils, but its value regarding overall health is debated. It can reduce cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels and provide energy.

People who don’t get enough vitamin D could suffer deficiencies which, according to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, can result in kidney and liver diseases, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, obesity, persistent fatigue, aches and pain, severe muscle and/or bone weakness or pain, plus unusual occurrences of stress fractures, especially in the legs, hips, and pelvis.