Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to more health risks than you realize.

Vitamin D has long been known to play an important role in calcium absorption, maintenance of bone density and prevention of osteoporosis. Vitamin D plays an essential role in the absorption of calcium from our diet-there are an estimated 10 million Americans over the age of 50 who are being diagnosed with osteoporosis. With research mounting about the possible connection between Vitamin D deficiency and auto immune diseases, cancer, muscle weakness and other chronic conditions, it seems prudent to ensure that you are getting enough.

The current recommended intake of Vitamin D is 200 IU’s for people up to age 50: 400 IU’s for people aged 51-70, and 600 IU’s for people over the age of 70. However, many experts are now recommending up to 2,000 IU’s per day. The institute of Medicine (IOM) has informed a committee to look at whether the current DRIs (Dietary Reference Intake) for Vitamin D are sufficient, although there is some concern about toxicity at higher intakes, since it is a fat-soluble vitamin, and is stored in the body.

What you can do:

1. For light-skinned people, spend 10-15 minutes getting direct midday sun exposure to your arms and face at least 3 times per week (without sun block). For darker- skinned people, that amount is greatly increased, and you may want to consider using Vitamin D3 supplement as well.

2. Take a daily Vitamin D3 ( cholecalciferol) supplement, at anywhere from 400-1,000 IU’s, depending on the color of your skin, the amount of sun exposure you get on a regular basis, and whether your diet consists of foods rich in Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is a more potent form than Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).

3. Increase your intake of Vitamin D rich food sources, including: milk, yogurt, oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna, eggs, fortified cereals and orange juice.