Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is readily available, yet up to 40% of Americans over the age of 50, do not get enough of this essential vitamin.

Scientists have known about the importance of vitamin D since its discovery in 1922 by Edward Mellanby during his research into Rickets, a disease which was affecting children. Interestingly, in the past two years, scientists may have linked a number of modern-day diseases to a vitamin D deficiency in adults.

In addition, there is some evidence linking low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of falls among the elderly. Research has also discovered a correlation between weakened immune systems and low vitamin D levels, suggesting a possible need for supplementation when sunlight exposure is decreased or limited during winter months.

Some of the most impressive findings on Vitamin D, however, have been in its role in genetics. Not only does Vitamin D help balance minerals in the body, but it also influences genetic signals which promote the healthy development of cells in tissues, including the prostate, liver, thyroid, and brain.

Getting enough vitamin D can be a challenge since it doesn't naturally occur in many foods. Although fortified milk has added vitamin D, it would require drinking 10 eight-ounce cups per day just to meet the maintenance dose of 1000 I.U.'s that experts are now recommending. And with most multivitamins containing 400 I.U.'s of vitamin D or less, it would take more than 2 multivitamins a day to obtain this recommended level of vitamin D.

Vitamin D has been proven to be a key ingredient for overall well-being. With so many people working indoors and shielding themselves from the sun when they are outside, supplementing with at least 1000 IU of vitamin D is advisable for maintaining a healthy diet.

Are you at risk? Evidence has shown that these groups are at risk for vitamin D deficiency:

  • People with dark skin- 85% of African Americans have been shown to have a deficiency of vitamin D.
  • People who spend a lot of time indoors
  • People who work graveyard shifts
  • People who are obese
  • People who are homebound
  • 81% of people living in nursing homes
  • Young girls ages 9-11-- 48% have a vitamin D deficiency
  • Patients in hospitals -- 60% are vitamin D deficient
  • Pregnant women- about 76% are deficient
  • Babies - 81% are vitamin D deficient

For more information on Vitamin D, visit the Vitamin D Council