HOUGHTON - Though always important, making sure one gets the right amount of vitamin D can get tricky during the winter months.
The human body only produces vitamin D naturally through exposure to sunlight; at least 15 to 20 minutes per day is recommended during the summer months.
"Because living beyond latitudes of 40 degrees provides little to no UV-B radiation in the winter months, supplementation is the best way to get adequate vitamin D," said Allison Helman, a family practice doctor at Portage Health's University Center in Houghton.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Vitamin D supplements are recommended during the winter for those living beyond latitudes of 40 degrees, as little to no UV-B radiation occurs.
In addition to vitamin D supplements, the nutrient can be found in fatty fish such as mackerel and tuna, fortified milk, cod liver oil, whole-grain cereals and other sources. A cooked 3-ounce piece of salmon provides 112 percent of the daily recommended amount. Smaller amounts are also found in foods such as egg yolks and cheese.
Known benefits of vitamin D include helping the intestine to absorb calcium, boosting bone growth and helping to regulate the immune and neuromuscular systems. And the list of uses could still be growing: A recent study by researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham found patients aged 45 and older with higher levels of vitamin D were more than 10 percent less likely to suffer a stroke and had 24 percent less cognitive impairment.
If the body doesn't get enough vitamin D, if suffers a lessened ability to absorb calcium. That can lead to osteoporosis, as well as increased falls and fractures in the elderly.
"Adolescents and children with low vitamin D levels may go on to develop bone and muscle pain, low bone density and in more extreme cases, rickets," Helman said.
For infants younger than 1 year, 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day is recommended. The guidelines rise to 15 micrograms daily for 1- to 70-year-olds. For those older at 70, who are at greater risk for bone disease, the recommended dosage rises to 20 micrograms.