New Vitamin D Advice

After vitamin D became hot a few years ago, people started popping supplements. The vitamin made headlines because of research that suggested it protects against some major, heavy-hitting health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. The vitamin D craze caused sales of those supplements to jump more than tenfold from 2001 to 2009.

Vitamin D is important because it helps the body absorb calcium. We naturally produce the vitamin when our skin interacts with the sun’s rays, but it was thought that most of us don’t’ generate enough.

But a recent report from the Institute of Medicine brings good news: Most people are not deficient, according to scientists with the institute who reviewed national surveys of blood levels. The institute also concluded that although vitamin D is essential for bone growth and maintenance, evidence supporting use of it for those other benefits is inconclusive. Based on that study, here are up-to-date answers to two common questions about vitamin D.

How much do I need?

Children and most adults should get 600 international units of vitamin D daily; adults older than 70 need 800 IU. That is slightly lower than what we’ve stated before. Of course, you should always talk to your doctor before adding or subtracting any nutrition supplement from your daily regimen. Your needs might be different, especially if you’re dark-skinned or overweight, or have celiac disease.

How do I get enough?

For most people, all it takes is 2 to 8 minutes in the summer sun daily. You can also try adding vitamin D-rich foods to your diet. They include wild Alaskan and sockeye salmon, mackerel, sardines, eggs, and fortified products such as milk and orange juice.

New birth-control risk

Women who take Beyaz, Yasmin, Yaz, or other contraceptive pills containing the hormone drospirenone might want to consider birth-control alternatives, especially if they are already at an increased risk of blood clots. This warning comes after two recent studies found that the risk of developing clots was two to three times higher among women taking those pills as it was for those who take pills containing levonorgestrel (Seasonique and others). Talk to your doctor about other options, including intrauterine devices such as Mirena, progestin-only pills such as Micronor, or an implant such as Implanon.

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