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The importance of Vitamin D

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because the only way to get it naturally is by exposing your body to sunshine. While our ancestors lived outdoors and didn’t wear much clothing, in the modern world, this has changed. Today, most people work indoors and wear clothes much of the time. As well, many of us live in northern climates with low levels of sunshine, particularly in the winter months.

A vitamin D deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world today. In fact, an estimated 40% to 60% of the world’s adult population don’t get enough vitamin D.

Why Vitamin D Is Necessary for Optimal Health — Especially in the Winter

Vitamin D performs many functions in our bodies, and its importance can hardly be overstated.

A study published in the Journal of Neurology demonstrates why getting enough vitamin D is essential for good health.

The research showed a 53% greater risk of dementia and a 70% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease among subjects who had a moderate vitamin D deficiency.

And this is only the latest of many studies finding the extraordinary importance of getting enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D also:

Helps your body absorb calcium and other minerals, including phosphorous
Is crucial for the healthy functioning of your muscles, your heart, your brain, your pancreas, and your thyroid
Plays a critical role in your immune system and it:

  • Reduces your risk of Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and many kinds of autoimmune diseases
  • Regulates insulin production and protects against type 2 diabetes
  • Protects your body from many different types of cancer
  • Getting enough vitamin D can help you stay well and protect you from getting colds and flu.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2017 showed how people who had optimal vitamin D levels and who took vitamin D during the winter had lower rates of flu than people who received flu vaccines.

What About Vitamin D in Foods?

Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods. The flesh of certain fatty fish and some fish liver oils contain small amounts of vitamin D. It’s fortified foods, such as fortified milk products, that provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet today.

Mushrooms can contain vitamin D. Some mushrooms today have their vitamin D content boosted with ultraviolet light. But it’s difficult to know if the mushrooms you’re eating have enough vitamin D, and you’re probably not eating them every day.

As a general rule for most people in today’s world, eating foods that are fortified with vitamin D and taking supplemental vitamin D is critical — particularly in winter.

How to Get Tested for Vitamin D

It may be a good idea to have your blood tested for vitamin D levels every once in a while. One test you may want to consider is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, which can measure if you’re getting too little or too much vitamin D (because too much vitamin D can be harmful).

Many experts recommend that you aim for a blood level between 30 and 50. For most people who don’t get a daily dose of about 20 to 30 minutes of direct sun exposure, a daily dose of 2,000 IUs of vitamin D3 will ensure you get the right amount.

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Nutrition. The Key to your Good Health.


In the year 2018, we are all aware of the importance of nutrition as it relates to our health. In fact it’s so obvious, that it’s often glossed over and assumed that no direct emphasis is required. Your doctor might have told you, “eat less, walk more”. You might have thought to yourself, “gee thanks, you’ve really motivated me. Let’s do this again in 6 months.” Six months later, status quo, repeat conversation, repeat results.

Stemming in part from this disregard, we now find about 70% of all adults are overweight, and almost 40% are obese. With the current incident rate, it’s possible that by 2030, we will see an adult prevalence of 80% overweight and 50% obese. This should creep us out more than those red-rum twins from The Shining. This should scare us more than another ‘bomb cyclone hitting the Northeast’. But does it? It should. There it is. Your arm hairs just stood up.

What we do know is that there is a direct, irrefutable correlation between obesity and mortality. In fact, in current day, other than cigarette smoking, obesity harbors the largest number of preventable deaths (as related to diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and liver disease).

Looking at the correlate with tobacco, our identification of disease causality was landmark, and public health measures were remarkable. A study evaluating the efforts to highlight risks of tobacco exposure estimated 800,000 lung cancer deaths were prevented between 1975 and 2000. From what I could ascertain from my research, in the late 1940’s, 9 out of 10 doctors agreed that 4 out of 5 of them preferred Camels. I guess we’ve come a long way. I’m not sure if there is a similar physician consensus on processed baked goods. Maybe Hostess Twinkies? Although, Little Debbie is adorable, so maybe we can go with Zebra Cakes? I don’t know, I suppose we should probably assemble a committee to address this. Clearly, the public health model can be very effective, but I think the nutrition/health issue requires more of an individualized, patient to patient approach.

Ok, back to food. Webster’s defines food as “material…essential to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes…of an organism”. Nutrition refers to the process by which we extract and utilize food to sustain our physiology. From nutrition, derives the word nutritious, which has inherent positive connotation; something that is good for you. Therefore, if we dig deep, back to 3rd grade math, by the transitive property (if a=b and b=c, then a=c), food being nutritious should be a given. In medicine, there is this concept of primary prevention, or the prevention of disease occurrence, and food IS our first line therapy.

Although inherently difficult to study, as the diseases being prevented take a long time to develop, it’s clear that nutrition is a primary preventive measure. However, often overlooked are its potential short term effects and secondary preventive benefits. Secondary prevention refers to the prevention of disease progression and complications, once disease has been established.

One investigation which highlighted this potential benefit was the Lyon Mediterranean Diet study – a study following heart disease patients who suffered from a myocardial infarction within 6 months of the study onset.

Healthy eating tips

The intervention was purely dietary: vegetables (5 servings/day), fruits (2 servings/day), supplementation with good fats (re: olive oil and certain nuts), reduced intake of heavier meats and excess saturated fats, and a reduction in refined/stripped grains.

At the 5 year mark, researchers found a 72% reduction in cardiovascular events with this dietary intervention. Sounds so simple right? Maybe it is? (Of course, for those with heart disease and other advanced cardiovascular and metabolic risks, the dietary measures are supplemental to medical management.) Regardless, what a great starting point for everyone. And remember, you can only eat as well as you grocery shop!

There is significant data and research suggesting potential benefits with dietary modifications and supplementation. The most effective preventive measures appear to be those for diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and liver disease. A non-exhaustive list of the types of foods of interest moving forward include: polyphenols and anthocyanins (berries, beans, cocoa, wine, coffee, tea), lycopene (tomatoes, watermelons, guava), L-arginine (certain beans and nuts), monounsaturated fatty acids (almonds, walnuts, olive oil, cocoa, avocados), green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), dietary fibers (especially insoluble types: oats, lentils, beans, certain fruits/vegetables) and even certain electrolytes as related to blood pressure control (magnesium, potassium and calcium).

More than just an association, there are plausible mechanisms by which these foods can reduce endothelial damage (lining of blood vessels), prevent cellular oxidative damage (free radicals), and prevent excess inflammatory responses. With ongoing research, we hope to confirm benefits, identify further protective mechanisms, and allow for more specific recommendations. In the meantime, be inquisitive, and further your nutrition knowledge. Ask your doctor specific questions and take ownership of your nutrition! Always be vigilant with your food choices. After all, food is medicine, so what’s your food equivalent to the weekly pill organizer?

Rohit Dixit, MD, MSc Nutrition/ Adult Primary Care- Riverwalk


Healthy Eating on a Budget

By Marcia Sikorski, RD, LDN, CDE

There is a misconception that healthy eating is expensive. In many cases, basic healthy foods are not only less expensive but often more nutritious than the more expensive processed foods. With a little planning and wise food shopping, you can get the nutrients you need while staying within your budget. Continue reading “Healthy Eating on a Budget”

Summer Time: Increase Healthy Produce!


by Marcia Sikorski, RD, LDN, CDE

Thanks to summer gardens and local farmers markets, the warm months are the perfect time to increase your family’s intake of fresh, healthful produce. Variety is the key, along with eating enough vegetables, anywhere from 1½ cups for children to 3 cups for adults. It is the types of vegetables you eat that really matter. Vegetables are divided into subgroups based upon their nutritional content, so it truly does take a diet full of color and variety to fuel your body with the nutrition it needs.

Continue reading “Summer Time: Increase Healthy Produce!”

Better Nutrition and Smart Snacking for Families


Nutritional meals in Andover, MA

Today, 1 in 3 children in the United States are overweight, or obese (over 95% weight for age). This is linked to children and teens developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, previously mainly seen in adults. A healthier lifestyle can help decrease the risk. Start with making small changes in your family’s meals and snacks. As adults, we need to be sure we practice the same habits we want our children to develop. Continue reading “Better Nutrition and Smart Snacking for Families”

Support Your Knees with Exercise

Do you need or want to exercise with a bad knee?

This is often a problem for many of my patients who suffer from joint complaints, regardless of the cause. No matter where you turn, exercise is a favorite topic of popular TV, News, Magazines. And you might also feel like you can’t escape the urgings of your physicians to adopt “healthy” lifestyle modifications to lose weight, reduce your cardiovascular risk, or protect your joints. All of these are good reasons to burn some calories, but sometimes exercising on a “bad knee” can be a major barrier. Continue reading “Support Your Knees with Exercise”

Send them Back to School with Healthy Lunches

Healthy lunch box consisting mixed grain cheese roll, red apple, cucumber sticks and bananaIt’s almost time for kids to head back to school! You want to make sure they’re eating all of the right kinds of food to fuel their growing bodies, but you also want them to like it. Start packing smarter with these helpful bagged lunch pointers: Continue reading “Send them Back to School with Healthy Lunches”

The Truth About Carbs

Are carbohydrates good for you or will they cause weight gain?

Carbohydrates have a bad reputation and a lot of people who are trying to lose weight end up avoiding them like the plague. But, a majority of nutritionists would agree that carbs are 100 percent necessary for peak athletic performance and a well-balanced diet. Continue reading “The Truth About Carbs”

How To Avoid Weight Gain Over The New Year

Feeling doughy after the holidays? Try a few of these tips to cut the fat out of your diet!

Healthy Diet Tips from Our Pentucket Medical Specialists

Winter is a time for family, gift-giving, traditions and delicious food. Unfortunately for those trying to lose weight, being surrounded by many unhealthy food options can be detrimental to all the hard progress you’ve made this year. How do you deal with staying healthy without sacrificing the joys of delicious winter comfort food?

Continue reading “How To Avoid Weight Gain Over The New Year”