We're always urging people to get the nutrition they need from food rather than a pill. But there's one nutritional supplement we think just about everyone needs: vitamin D. Your body produces vitamin D from the sun (and you get some vitamin D from food), but if you're careful about using sunscreen every day (a smart idea to prevent skin cancer), chances are you to don't manufacture enough vitamin D, even in the summer.
That means you may be low on this anti-aging vitamin. Recent research links low vitamin D levels to everything from heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis to breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
"On the upside, researchers have found that having healthy amounts of vitamin D3 relaxes your blood vessels, helps bone-building drugs work better, and makes weight loss faster and easier," says Michael F. Roizen, cofounder of RealAge and chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic.
That makes a vitamin D supplement a smart idea for most of us. But not just any pill will do the trick. A new study of 1,000 older people in Britain finds supplements with vitamin D3 -- the kind your body manufactures from the sun --- are far better than vitamin D2 at raising your blood level of vitamin D.
"Aim for at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day," says Roizen. People 60 and older need a bit more vitamin D3 -- 1,200 IU daily, he adds. You can check the form of vitamin D on the Supplement Facts label.
And because it's a fat-soluble vitamin, be sure to take vitamin D3 with a heart-healthy fat (like a handful of walnuts) so your body can absorb all of it.
But more vitamin D3 isn't better, Roizen warns. "Don't go over 2,000 IU without talking to your doc." Mega doses of vitamin D3 can make cause kidney damage and bone fractures.
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