Vitamin D is essential to living a healthy, balanced life. Insufficient levels can lead to a shortened lifespan and an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, but too much can be just as damaging.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, steroid hormone that controls over 1,000 genes in our bodies. Meaning it’s controlling over 1,000 different physiological processes. It’s naturally produced in our bodies and stored in our tissue. Often referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin, it’s commonly believed that getting 15 minutes of sun exposure, about 3 days a week will provide all the Vitamin D you need. But for most of us, this isn’t accurate.
There are many factors that affect our body’s ability to produce and use Vitamin D, including age, skin pigmentation, sunscreen, body fat, and where you live; each of these factors act as a barrier to UVB rays, which are the primary source for Vitamin D production. The CDC estimates that only 30% of light skinned Americans, and 5% of African Americans, receive a sufficient amount of Vitamin D.
The safest way to increase your Vitamin D level is through food. The richest source is found in fish like salmon and mackerel as well as mushrooms. But it’s difficult for most people to get enough Vitamin D through food alone, so adding a supplement to your diet can be extremely helpful. The only way to know exactly how much Vitamin D is right for you is through a blood test, but as a rule of thumb the National Institute of Medicine recommends a safe upper intake amount of 4,000 international units (IU) a day for the average adult.
Vitamin D is incredibly important to your overall health and lifespan. Studies have shown that, compared to individuals with sufficient Vitamin D levels, those with low Vitamin D levels are likely to experience premature biological aging which has a direct correlation to a shorter lifespan by 5 years. Manage your health responsibly. Simply adding supplements to your diet won’t help your overall health if you don’t also eat right and exercise regularly. Also, remember to be thoughtful when adding supplements to your diet. Too much Vitamin D can lead to kidney damage, kidney stones, calcium deposits in your heart and lungs and in extremely high doses (10,000 IU) it can be toxic.