According to recent studies, most people are not getting the amount of vitamin D needed for optimal health for the long haul. More specifically, researcher Michael Holick, MD, PhD, of Boston University Medical Center found that 64% of the 100 adults he recruited for his study (see June 2010 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) were vitamin D deficient. Another study, this one out of Wake Forest University, determined that of the 2,788 generally healthy adults, average age 75, who were studied, fully two-thirds had insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood. Moving on to children, two studies reported on in 2009, in which almost 10,000 youngsters were studied, found that 70% were not getting enough vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) for optimal health. More important, are you and your loved ones getting the amount of vitamin D that you need? If Shakespeare were alive to delve into this modern-day dilemma, he might write it this way: To D or not to D, that is the question!

Why should we care? Rickets is not a problem with which most of us have ever had to deal, and isn't that what getting sufficient vitamin D is all about? Not really. That's just the tip of the iceberg of benefits vitamin D can supply or of the risks at which we put ourselves by not getting suffcient amounts.

It is fairly well known that without adequate levels of vitamin D, calcium cannot be fully utilized for maintaining and growing strong bones. What is less well known is that vitamin D is needed for strong muscles, too. In the 4-year Wake Forest study they evaluated the elderly subjects for physical function (i.e., how quickly they could rise from a chair, their speed of gait, balance, endurance and strength) and found that those who ranked highest on the physical function test battery, requiring good muscle strength, had the highest levels of vitamin D. In a related study performed at McGill University they discovered a correlation between low levels of the sunshine vitamin and increased fat in the muscle tissue, resulting in weaker muscles. A panel of the European Food Safety Authority concluded that there is "a cause and effect relationship between the dietary intake of vitamin D ... and the maintenance of normal muscle function."

According to, recent research suggests that adequate vitamin D may help protect against osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer and several autoimmune diseases (e.g., diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis). Other experts have linked it to improved immune function, the reduction of inflammation, osteomalacia (softening of the bones), cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment in older adults and severe asthma in children. US News & world Report put the icing on the cake when they printed that "Hundreds of studies have shown that people with high levels of vitamin D in their blood have lower rates of diseases and a lower death rate."

The question is: how much vitamin D do we need and how do we get it? The current US government-recommended daily requirement is 400 IUs (600 for those over 70). Many experts, however, find this level of vitamin D intake to be woefully inadequate and are pushing for an increased recommendation of one or two thousand IUs per day. Getting this much of the sunshine vitamin in our food and drink is difficult at best in that vitamin D fortified milk has only 100 IUs per eight-ounce glass and there aren't that many foods that have very much vitamin D in them. Salmon is maybe the best, with about 400 IUs per serving, but we can't (probably don't want to) eat salmon every day, and tuna fish, another top source, is at about 200 IUs. Natural cod liver oil, anyone? Cod liver oil (that hasn't had the vitamin D removed) has about 1,400 IUs per tablespoon and is a good option if you can stomach it. Taking a high-dosage vitamin D supplement (1,000 to 2,000 IUs) is another way to meet your body's needs. Some researchers are recommending even higher dosages. Worried about toxic levels of the fat-soluble vitamin (actually, it's a hormone)? Toxicity can come into play when one takes 50,000 IUs per day for months. Of course, you should always check with your health-care provider before making any lifestyle changes, such as increasing your intake of vitamin D.

The other option is to get out in the sun in the middle of the day (10 to 2-ish) for 10 to 20 minutes with minimal clothing and minus the sunscreen. The problem is that in the winter above the 35th latitude (about Atlanta, Georgia,) it is hard to get enough sun due to the angle of the sun's rays coming through the atmosphere and the desire to stay bundled up to stay warm. And some in the medical field don't think any amount of sun without sunscreen is good for you.

The best bet is for you to do your own research on this topic. There are many sources of valuable information on the sunshine vitamin. There's vitamin-D expert Michael Holick's website; you can visit and order the book: Vitamin D -- The Fountain of Youth? by biochemist, Paul Stitt; or you can go to and type in vitamin D and find pages and pages of videos about vitamin D.

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From Ed Mayhew -- the author of Fitter After 50, Fitter For Life and other books, CDs, videos and articles on how you, too, can make falling apart as you age merely an option -- NOT a mandate. Why not make the rest of your life the BEST of your life? and (click here for paperback or Kindle editions of AGE BLASTERS)