Vitamin D: Lifesaving Supplement

Discover how the "sunshine vitamin" could save your life.

By Janis Graham from Reader's Digest | January 2009

Low vitamin D levels have been associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. And it gets worse: According to new research, adults who don’t get enough of the “sunshine vitamin” are 26 percent more likely to die early. A 12-year study of 13,000 men and women didn’t finger any one cause of death, “because vitamin D’s impact on health is so widespread,” says researcher Michal Melamed, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. Besides drinking fortified milk, she suggests that you:

Get a little sun. Just 10 to 15 minutes of midday sunshine (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) several days a week may do the trick (apply sunscreen after those few minutes).

Take supplements. Winter rays in northern climates (above a line approximately between the northern border of California and Boston) may be too weak to provide benefits. Supplements can help. A review of 18 studies showed that those who took vitamin D supplements lived longer than those who took a placebo. For adults, 800 IU daily is considered safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently doubled the amount it recommends for infants, children, and adolescents, to 400 IU. Look for products labeled D3 for greatest potency and absorption.

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