Vitamin D: More Than Just the Sunshine Vitamin

Family Physicians are always being asked about the importance of vitamin D. Should it be taken as a supplement or eaten via a diet rich in dairy foods, like milk, cheese and yogurt? Let’s examine the importance of vitamin D in the diet and what we all need to do to remain healthy.

Physicians have long known vitamin D’s role in helping the body absorb calcium and thus, promote bone growth. Recently, however, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of multiple diseases including certain cancers, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration and the flu.

We receive most of our vitamin D from skin production. The pre-vitamin, D3, is produced in the skin, and then—with the help of the liver, the kidneys and brief, casual sun exposure—vitamin D is produced (hence its nickname, the ‘sunshine vitamin’). Too much sun exposure can be dangerous, however, so we need to consider other ways of getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.

With this in mind, it is important to leverage our diet to help maintain our vitamin D levels. Dairy is a great source of vitamin D. Aim for three glasses of milk per day and purchase yogurt fortified with vitamin D. Eating three servings of dairy daily can help ensure you are getting sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Additionally, speak with your doctor for guidance about your personal vitamin D needs.

Guest post by Dr. Brian Nadolne

Dr. Brian NadolneDr. Nadolne is a family physician in Marietta, GA, focusing on preventive and proactive care for his patients. He is the immediate-past president of the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians (GAFP) and its current Board Chair.