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Update on Vitamin D: What the Labels Mean.

Vitamin D, often called the "sunshine vitamin," is gaining attention in both maintenance of good health and correction of medical problems. In children, a severe lack of this vitamin--along with its mineral partner calcium--can lead to rickets, a deformation of the bone structure.

Researchers are now finding that a deficiency of vitamin D (which often affects adults) may lead to osteoporosis (bone porosity). Osteoporosis can be minimized by the use of this nutrient along with sufficient calcium. Patients with Crohn's disease are well advised to check with their physicians regarding vitamin D supplements because vitamin D levels are often low in this population.

Vitamin D is also unique because the human skin makes it after exposure to sunlight. However, discontinuing sunbathing before at least one-half hour has passed produces a minimal amount of vitamin D. The skin does not form the vitamin immediately; at least one-half hour is required for the biological transformation to be completed.

The effect of widely used suntanning lotions on vitamin D production is still unclear. Most people have become cautious about remaining in the sun for a limited time to obtain the proper quota of vitamin D because of the dangers of excessive sun exposure.

Vitamin D--fortified homogenized milk provides the major food source of this nutrient. However, milk presents a substantial problem to those who are lactose-intolerant and also to individuals wishing to limit the amount of fat in their diet.

What is the best method for those who wish to avoid excessive sun exposure and dairy sources of vitamin D? The answer may be found in vitamin supplements.

There are basically three commercial sources of vitamin D providing 400 International Units (IU), regarded as a daily minimum. Some sources even provide 800 IU, which some nutritionists regard as optimal. (Do not exceed 1000 IU without the advice of a physician.)

1. Fish liver oils (but not only cod liver oil) are available with a standardized dose of 400 IU. This source, however, presents problems to vegetarians who want to avoid fish. Consumers following kosher dietary law should be aware that soft gelatin capsules containing fish oils are made of non-kosher animal gelatin.

2. Vitamin [D.sub.2] (ergocalciferol) is produced from various vegetarian sources.

3. Vitamin [D.sub.3] (cholecalciferol) is produced exclusively from lanolin, which is the grease washed out of lamb's wool. Although the extraction process does not injure the animal in any way, some strict vegetarians prefer to avoid even this type of product. For these people, vitamin [D.sub.2] is the obvious choice.

For further information, contact Dr. Zimmerman at 1-800-7773737.

(Readers should see their physicians before considering any dietary supplement.)
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Article Details
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Author:Zimmerman, Philip W.
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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