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Vitamin D—The Sunshine Vitamin

A growing number of researchers are claiming that vitamin D may be more beneficial than anyone realized. Recent studies have shown that high doses of vitamin D may help prevent a host of ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and even certain forms of mental illness.

Photo by Lyndi Schrecengost, ©2008For years, doctors have known that vitamin D is important for good health. It promotes the absorption of calcium, making it vital for the maintenance of strong bones, and strengthens the immune system. But only recently have medical researchers seen evidence that it may protect against many of society’s worst maladies. Even though much of this research is still preliminary, the results so far have been striking. For instance, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and diabetes.

Some doctors are now calling for people to make sure they get at least 1000 international units (IUs) of the vitamin each day—five times the minimum daily dose currently recommended by the Department of Agriculture for most Americans.

One of the easiest ways to increase vitamin D intake is to sit in the sun. Exposing the skin to the sun’s ultraviolet rays prompts the body to synthesize the vitamin naturally. Although frequent and extensive exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of skin cancer, 15 minutes of sun per day can dramatically increase vitamin D intake. People can also get more vitamin D by taking supplements or by eating more of certain types foods, including eggs and fish, such as salmon and tuna.