Should men get their vitamin D levels checked?


In recent years, routine checks of vitamin D levels, has become more common.  Indeed, vitamin D is an important vitamin not to be deficient in.  Vitamin D is well-known for keeping bones strong and healthy so having adequate levels are vital. Besides bone health, some studies have found that deficiencies of vitamin D may also have an association with increasing risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. It has been found that individuals with these conditions also tend to have low levels of vitamin D.  However at this time, no studies have shown that insufficient levels of vitamin D actually cause the diseases.

In recent years, studies have looked at whether routine screening for vitamin D was necessary.  After these studies were examined by a panel of experts sponsored by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the conclusion was that there was not sufficient evidence to support annual screenings of vitamin D.

The reason for their recommendation of not supporting annual screenings for vitamin D was that there was no consensus regarding the optimal level needed to keep bones healthy. Guidelines traditionally have stated that vitamin D levels should be at least 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).  Levels of vitamin D in the body are determined with a blood test that measures a form of vitamin D known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D.   But some experts say this amount is too low and the level should be 30 ng/ml or higher.  Most experts, however, now acknowledge that true vitamin D deficiency is less than12 ng/ml, which is not that common.  Individuals who may have a vitamin D level this low and need regular vitamin D testing would include those who:

  • Have a gastrointestinal condition like celiac disease that decreases the ability to absorb vitamin D
  • Are malnourished or have anorexia nervosa
  • Has had gastric bypass surgery
  • Has very dark skin
  • Regularly takes medication that interferes with vitamin D activity, such as an oral corticosteroid (such as prednisone) or certain anticonvulsants
  • Men with thinning bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis) or have had fragility fractures (broken bones that occur from minimal trauma)

For most men, there are good ways they can obtain sufficient vitamin D.  First, the recommendations for this vitamin are from ages 19 to 70, they need 600 International Units (IU) or 15 mcg per day and men older than 70, should get 800 IU or 20 mcg per day. The human body can make vitamin D from sunlight exposure and is the easiest way to obtain it. It is recommended to get at least five to 30 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen, twice a week.

Good natural food sources of vitamin D are mackerel, swordfish, salmon, sardines, tuna, and egg yolks, along with foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice and some yogurts. Men, who are uncertain of their vitamin D intake, can take a daily 1,000 IU vitamin D3 supplement with their doctor’s approval and advice.

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