Many of us need more Vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly recognized as a worldwide epidemic. Although the human body is able to produce vitamin D by itself, it does so only after sufficient exposure to sunlight. For this reason, factors that limit skin exposure to sunlight play a major role in determining an individual’s risk of deficiency. Today many of us work inside sealed buildings, drive in cars instead of walking outdoors and wear hats and sun block. Glass windows, as well as sun block with a SPF greater than 8, greatly diminish our exposure to the UVB rays necessary for vitamin D conversion.
Sufficient exposure to sunlight is also a problem for people living in northern regions. In the US, if you live in a region north of latitude 30 (a horizontal line running from Los Angeles, California to Columbia, South Carolina) then the sun is only strong enough to produce adequate vitamin D between May and September. People with dark skin, particularly in northern latitudes, do not get as much vitamin D from sun exposure as do light-skinned people. Since melanin acts like a sun block and prolongs the exposure time required to generate vitamin D, people with dark skin many require more vitamin D to avoid deficiency. Other groups at an increased risk of deficiency may include the elderly, as the ability to convert vitamin D decreases with age; and obese individuals, as vitamin D may be sequestered in body fat.
The best know function of vitamin D is its role in building and maintaining strong bones by improving the body’s absorption of the minerals, calcium and phosphorous. But the benefits don’t stop there. Vitamin D also helps regulate the immune system and neuromuscular system, and plays key roles in the life cycle of human cells. Recent research shows that vitamin D performs a variety of functions in optimizing health.
Current research demonstrates that higher intakes of vitamin D earlier in life may play a role in the prevention of type 1 diabetes. Data also suggests higher circulating levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate, breast, and colon cancers. For optimal health and to reduce the risk of common diseases, it is important to consider your blood levels of vitamin D and to consult with your doctor about having your vitamin D levels tested.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or winter depression and to mood regulation more generally. Decreased exposure to sunlight in the winter months, and the corresponding decrease in vitamin D production, may alter the production of the hormones, serotonin and melatonin, which regulate mood and circadian rhythms. Vitamin D may support mood and sleep rhythms by adjusting melatonin and serotonin levels in the brain and nervous system.
The recommended form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). This is the natural form of vitamin D that the body makes from sunlight. Supplements containing the D3 form are better absorbed and optimally utilized by the body. The RDA states 400IU is sufficient, however daily intake as much as 4000IU may be taken. Talk to Dr. Roscoe for more details.
Food sources of naturally occurring vitamin D are rare. The primary natural food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, such as sardines, mackerel and salmon.
Our next newsletter will feature a Lower-Carb Mediteranean-Type Diet. It can help balance blood sugar and hormone levels, assist with adrenal fatigue, as well as promote weight loss and a healthy heart.