The Need For Vitamin D

Getting enough vitamin D is important for overall health-and early studies suggest it may also be key for managing diabetes.  

If a vitamin D supplement isn’t in your medicine cabinet, it should be.  Data shows that many Americans are deficient in the sunshine vitamin.

That might be because vitamin D is a tricky little guy.  It’s present in very few foods, and even then it appears in relatively small amounts.

Lucky for us, nature built in a fail-safe: You can get vitamin D through sun exposure.  But that has its challenges, too.

So why make the effort for this elusive vitamin?  Because it’s crucial for so many aspects of your health, and new studies suggest it may help you manage your diabetes as well.

Why you need it

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and promotes bone health (people with diabetes are at risk for fractures).  It’s also key for reducing inflammation and boosting immunity.  Researchers note that fewer hours sunshine in winter may be linked to why that time is cold and flu season.

Emerging research suggests that people with type 2 who have higher blood levels of vitamin D tend to have better blood sugar control.  And people at risk for type 2 with higher vitamin D levels are less likely to develop the disease.

Even more:  Studies show a link between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of nerve, kidney, and eye complications, as well as cardiovascular disease and hypertension.  But clinical trials about the effects of adequate levels of vitamin D are mixed and in early stages.

What we do know for sure:  Vitamin D is important for many aspects of your health, so you should make an effort to get the recommended dosage each day.

What’s right for you

So how can we get enough of the sunshine vitamin?  It’s especially important for those who have difficulty maintaining adequate levels, including obese people, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, people with darker skin, and those with inflammatory bowel disease or who have had gastric bypass surgery.

According to the USDA, fatty fish (salmon, tuna and sardines) is a top source.  You also get some vitamin D in egg yolks and beef liver.  In the American diet, fortified foods provide a lot-including milk, orange juice, breakfast cereal, and even mushrooms exposed to UV-B light.

Still, most of the foods have only timy amounts of vitamin D.  For example, you’d have to drink 13 cups of milk to get the 1.500-2,000 IU the Endocrine Society recommends for adults.

A guideline for boosting your body’s D production is to expose the most skin possible to sunlight, getting half the amount of sun exposure it takes for your skin to turn pink, according to the Vitamin D Council.

In the end, the best way to get enough vitamin D is to take a daily supplement.  These pills are easy to take, affordable, and widely available. If you’re concerned you’re deficient, ask your doctor to check with a simple blood test at your next visit.


Try the D-Minder Pro app to help you figure out how much vitamin D you can make from sun exposure in your location.  It takes into account your skin you expose.  Free at dminder.ontometrics. com.


The endocrine society recommends 1,500 IU, while the NIH recommend 600 IU for adults.  Ask your doctor what’s best for you.

Look for supplements labeled D3, the same form your body makes from sunlight.  D2 is not as potent as D3.

1,000 IU supplements are widely available in grocery stores and pharmacies; less potent versions mean more daily doses.

Supplements also come in gummies and chews, but note carbs so they don’t spike blood sugar.

Eat a fat source, such as peanut butter, avocado, or an egg, with your supplement to better absorb vitamin D.

References:  Diabetic Living Dec. 2016