Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Travel Nutrition: D-Lightful News!

Sunlight is good for your health before and during travel. That's me above, working in the sun and getting my Vitamin D.

As our days become shorter and nights longer, I am reminded about the need for vitamin D, which is lacking in many adults and youth in the United States. This sunshine vitamin is actually a hormone that regulates calcium and bone health. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of common cancers, autoimmune diseases, and heart disease. In addition, Vitamin D plays a key role in protecting your immune system and cells.

It is exceedingly beneficial to have adequate vitamin D levels prior to and during travel in order to stay healthy. The great thing about traveling abroad is that many of the countries your Student Ambassador explores allow for higher amounts of vitamin D absorption from sunlight. Furthermore, the travel itinerary involves spending vast amounts of time outdoors, so your Student Ambassador can maintain healthy vitamin D levels during travel.

The table below shows current suggested adequate intake levels for various age groups.* (Please note: obesity requires 2-3 times more Vitamin D than the levels listed below.)

Child's AgeAdequate IntakeSafe Upper Limits
0-1 years
400-1,000 IU
2,000 IU
1-12 years
1,000-2,000 IU
5,000 IU
13+ years
1,500-2,000 IU 10,000 IU

Why is there a prevalence of vitamin D deficiency?

In the United States, typical diets provide about 100 IU per day. Additionally, our bodies do not make vitamin D in the winter due to a low UV index, so anyone living north of Atlanta (or 35 degrees latitude) may be deficient. Fatty fish such as salmon, catfish, and tuna - along with eggs - are a few of the rare natural food sources of vitamin D. Other good sources include milk, yogurt, and cereal because these foods are typically fortified with this vitamin. If you take supplemental vitamin D, it is important to be sure that it is in the form of vitamin D3.

Tips to assure your Student Ambassador gets enough vitamin D pre-travel:
  • Drink 3 glasses of milk per day
  • Take a daily multivitamin with 2000 IU of vitamin D3
  • Take your multivitamin with milk or yogurt for better absorption
  • Spend 10-15 minutes in the sunlight every day, with your arms and legs exposed, without sun protection
For more information on Vitamin D, visit KidsHealth.org.

*Current suggested intake levels were established by Michael J. Holick, PhD, MD: Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics; Director of General Clinical Research Unit; Director of the Bone Health Care Clinic and Heliotherapy, Light and Skin Research Center at Boston University Medical Center

By April D. Davis, RD, CD, ACSM CES®

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