Medical experts say there’s a growing health problem in the United States — especially during the winter months — and it’s not the cold or flu. It’s a lack of vitamin D.

Researchers say that about 66 percent of Americans lack vitamin D. And since the earth is tilted away from its orbit around the sun during this time of year, people don’t get enough vitamin D from the sun to absorb calcium needed for strong bones and general wellness.   The lack of vitamin D has been linked to colon, breast and ovarian cancers.

"It’s a growing epidemic,” says Cedric Garland, professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and MooresCancerCenter at the University of California, San Diego. More than ever, people now need to look at fortified foods for vitamin D. 

“But not all vitamin D is created equal,” stresses Garland. “Milk is one of the best sources of this vitamin, because it contains vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, the most effective form of vitamin D.”

While osteoporosis is a main concern, Garland says vitamin D deficiency also accounts for thousands of premature deaths from colon, breast and ovarian cancers every year.

Garland says his research applies to people of all ages, but is particularly relevant to the baby boom population. “As people get older, the body’s ability to absorb nutrients slows down.  So baby boomers need to increase their vitamin D intake.”

Garland recommends children and adults expose 50 percent of their bodies to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes daily (without sunscreen) between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.  The alternative is to take 1000 international units of vitamin D fortified foods — or the equivalent of 10 glasses of milk daily. A combination of other vitamin D fortified foods like cheeses and yogurt are viable alternatives.   

The research was published on-line on Feb. 6 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. To see the abstract, follow this link.

Source: California Milk Processor Board