5 Ways Vitamin D Could Save Your Life

Find out how the sunshine vitamin -- vitamin D -- can benefit your health.

ByABC News via logo
August 2, 2009, 5:54 PM

Aug. 3, 2009 — -- Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, and it has a lot of sunny benefits, but most Americans aren't getting them because they aren't getting enough of it.

Between 50 percent and 75 percent of Americans get suboptimal levels of vitamin D, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Now a committee at the Institute of Medicine is meeting to determine whether the recommended daily intake of vitamin D should be increased. ABC medical contributor Dr. Marie Savard came on "Good Morning America" today to offer five ways vitamin D can aid your health and tell you how to get more of it.

Nature gave us only one good source of vitamin D, and that is the sun. We are meant to absorb vitamin D from the sun through our skin.

When we lived closer to the equator and worked outdoors, we were OK. But that is not the case today. And food is not a good source of vitamin D, not even fortified food.

Helps Fight Cancer

Vitamin D improves the functioning of your immune system, and that helps fight cancer.You can get 10-15 minutes of high-noon sun exposure in warmer climates a few times a week. In the South you can do this all year long; but in the North it will work only in the summer months. But this is unrealistic for those who already wear sunscreen all day, or have been warned to stay out of the sun by their doctors.

In food, vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish like salmon and in cod liver oil.

You could drink four glasses of milk a day, but most people choose not to.