Why and How to Get More Vitamin D
You know that vitamin D helps develop strong bones and healthy teeth. But new research suggests that the sunshine vitamin may also play a role in treating gum disease and possibly even preventing it. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology in 2009 found that patients who increased their levels of vitamin D and calcium had better overall oral health. Research also suggests that vitamin D may help prevent tooth loss.
The Deal With Vitamin D
Beyond its role in bone metabolism, no one knows yet why vitamin D may promote oral health. One theory is that vitamin D reduces the inflammation involved in gum disease. It also stimulates the production of cathelicidin, a natural antibiotic that helps fight infection and may fend off tooth decay.
Getting Enough Vitamin D
Most Americans aren’t getting enough vitamin D, according to a 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. So how much should you aim for? That depends on your age, says Dr. Sally J. Cram, a spokesman for the American Dental Association and a dentist in Washington, D.C. The Institutes of Medicine recommends you get 200 IU (international units) a day if you are younger than 50, and those 51 to 70 years old should aim for 400 IU. Adults 71 and older should get 600 IU.
You can get vitamin D from sun exposure, but most experts advise against it, given the link between UV radiation and skin cancer. Instead, try getting vitamin D from food and drinks. Good sources include:
- Milk (All milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D.)
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified breakfast cereal
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough vitamin D in your diet, talk to your doctor about supplements, says Cram. But be careful not to go overboard: Taking more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day can result in nausea, vomiting, weight loss and confusion.
Winnie Yu is a freelance writer who frequently writes about health and nutrition. Her latest book is What to Eat for What Ails You
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