The disease-fighting properties of vitamin D are becoming increasingly clear, but it’s not easy to get enough of this crucial nutrient. In an effort to prevent skin cancer, many forego the vitamin D-producing benefits of natural sunlight. And diets high in processed foods don’t offer much D power, either.
These factors seem to be contributing to Americans’ vitamin D deficiency. About 40 percent of men, 50 percent of women and 70 percent of children have low levels , according to data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines recommend that adults consume 400 IUs of vitamin D daily and children under 18 consume 200 IUs.
Much is at stake. While it’s long been known that vitamin D encourages healthy bone growth by increasing calcium absorption, a spate of recent research indicates that it can accomplish far more.
Insufficient vitamin D, in fact, is associated with a higher incidence of chronic and life-threatening conditions such as various cancers, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cognitive decline. Healthy amounts can impede inflammation, a component of many illnesses, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).