Vitamin D is the best defense

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.

Q: I hear that getting enough vitamin D is important for good health, but also that lots of the supplements aren't reliable. How can I make sure I'm getting the right stuff?

— Shelly Z., Las Palmas, Calif.

A: You're probably referring to a recent study that found that actual doses of vitamin D in over-the-counter and compounded supplements varied from 9 percent to 146 percent of the amount listed on the label! And if you're taking a vitamin D supplement because you're deficient (1 billion folks worldwide are), you may be risking your health. Always take D-3 — that's the form of vitamin D that your body needs to stay healthy.

Vitamin supplements don't need U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval before they hit the shelves, and at this point the industry isn't very well-regulated. But the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention is an independent group that tries to make sure supplements deliver what they promise on the label. If their "USP verified" mark is on the label, you know it has been tested and the product's contents have been verified. It's the best evidence that a supplement doesn't contain contaminants and actually does contain the ingredients in the amount stated. You can find a list of supplements tested by the USP at www.usp.org.

Now, a word about the powers of D-3 and why you're smart to be taking it as a supplement. As heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey said, "The best defense is a good offense." And that's super-true when it comes to your health. A lack of vitamin D-3 contributes to everything from a weak immune system, gut problems, depression and diabetes to catching the flu.

Even though your body's natural D is activated by exposure to sunshine and a number of food sources have D-3 added, supplements are the easiest way to make sure you're getting enough. So pick up some USP-verified D-3, and take 1,000 IU daily. And have your doctor check your D levels — we both aim for levels of 50 to 80 ng/ml.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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