Mushrooms: Your Newest Vitamin D Source

Since 85 percent of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D due to some sort of sun phobia or just not making enough effort to get outside regularly, this news about mushrooms becoming a new source for vitamin D is probably a good idea.

So far, researchers have found exposing the most commonly sold mushrooms (white button) to merely five minutes of ultraviolet light after harvesting generates almost nine times the daily value of vitamin D.

News like this comes at a good time, since I have radically shifted my views on oral supplements for vitamin D, because it's just too darn easy to overdose. I have done it a few times and I test myself regularly. I spent most of the winter working in Maui this year and had nearly daily sun exposure.

Prior to leaving, my levels were fine. When I returned, however, my vitamin D levels were in the toxic range, actually one of the highest we had ever measured. I believe this was related to the fact that I was taking cod liver oil for two months prior to leaving. I probably would have been fine as I have been in past winters, if I wasn't getting so much sun exposure.

Fortunately, elevated vitamin D from sun exposure drops relatively rapidly, but I am never taking cod liver oil again as I plan on getting sun exposure regularly. For those who aren't able to escape to regular winter sources of sunshine, I am working on a simple sunlamp option that will safely increase your vitamin D levels and eliminate the need for expensive testing.

The bottom line here: Get your vitamin D from sun exposure, not irradiated mushrooms or cod liver oil. However, if you choose to use them regularly, then you should, at a bare minimum, have your blood levels of vitamin D checked a few times to make sure you don't overdose.

MSNBC April 18, 2006

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