If you could take a supplement that would likely guard you against some cancers and the common cold and other viruses, would you? Many people are saying yes, and taking daily supplements of vitamin D.

When it comes to vitamins, many experts vary in their opinion on whether you should take supplements or not. Some say you don’t need any supplements, believing people get all their needed vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet. Others believe supplements are helpful, especially when our diets are not perfect.

Do You Need a Supplement?

Vitamin D is one nutrient that many experts agree is helpful to take as a supplement. That’s because vitamin D has gone through more rigorous studies than many other vitamins and has been found to have several health benefits. Recent research shows that vitamin D may be important in preventing and treating a number of serious health problems.

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, which simply means that our bodies need it to function. Most essential vitamins are not produced by our bodies, and must be taken in through the foods we eat. Vitamin D is different—our bodies can produce it with the help of adequate sunlight. Today, with the increased use of sun protection and more time spent indoors, many people are deficient in vitamin D. According to a recent WebMD article, an estimated 40% to 75% of people are deficient.

If you’re curious about your own vitamin D levels, ask your doctor or attend the TMH Community Health Fair each spring.

Studied Benefits of Vitamin D

According to recent studies, adequate levels of vitamin D are shown to:

  • Keep bones strong and help avoid osteoporosis

  • Possibly reduce heart disease risk and high blood pressure

  • Lower risk of colorectal cancer, and may reduce risk of other cancers, including breast, prostate and pancreatic, according to the National Cancer Institute. (In a study by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, low vitamin D was found to be prevalent in most cancer patients)

  • Boost the immune system and protect against viruses such as the common cold

  • May reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis

  • Likely plays a key role in maintaining cognitive function as we age

  • Can reduce the severity of asthma

Taking vitamin D is an important way to prevent osteoporosis. Take calcium and vitamin D together, as the vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium.

How Much to Take

So, you are ready to jump on the vitamin D bandwagon, now what? First, know that there are different forms of vitamin D. The recommended form to take is vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. It’s the natural form of vitamin D that your body makes from sunlight.

The Institute of Medicine recommends adults take 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day, and for those over 70, increase that amount to 800 IU a day. Some doctors believe these recommendations are somewhat low and find a higher dose benefits many people. Ask your own doctor how much is best for you.