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Dr. Max Gomez: Government Proposes New Guidelines For Vitamin D Screening

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- A government task force has proposed new guidelines for vitamin D screening.

As CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported, many doctors still believe that screening and vitamin D supplements are important for good health.

Normally, our bodies make all of the vitamin D that we need by being out in the sun. However, the sunscreen that is used to protect us from skin cancer can also prevent us from getting enough vitamin D, especially during the winter.

Screening for vitamin D deficiency has become routine in recent years, but the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is calling the practice into question for healthy adults.

"We really just don't have enough evidence to say one way or the other whether screening for vitamin D has a health benefit," Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, explained.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium for healthy bones. The greatest source is sun exposure. It is also found in fatty fish like salmon. The panel agreed that vitamin D is important, but how much is needed remains unclear.

"What we don't know is exactly what levels really would classify someone as being deficient in vitamin D," Dr. Bibbins-Domingo explained.

The task force did recommend discussing a screening with a doctor if you show symptoms of  a deficiency.

Sakinah Ali, 30, takes vitamin D for her rheumatoid arthritis because it helps relieve her joint pain.

"When my doctor notices I am really low in vitamin D, she will prescribe an extra dose," Ali said.

Her rheumatologist said that the task force is allowing doctors to make their own judgement calls.

"What it sounds like to me is that the decision is therefore mine, individually making a decision on a case-by-case basis," Dr. Natalie Azar said.

Most people are not so deficient in vitamin D that they will break bones or have rickets, but they still may not have enough for optimum health, experts said. Many studies have suggested that vitamin D is an important immune system booster that may help fight cancer and other health conditions.

"Heart functions, asthma, multiple sclerosis, gynecological conditions, a broad range of disorders that really affect most of us, and it's clear that the majority of us are vitamin D deficient," Dr. Steven Lamm, NYU Tisch Center For Men's Health, explained.

Many medical experts said that taking one or two thousand units of vitamin D-3 could be essential for good health. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and an entire dose can be taken once a week.

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