Vitamin D is important for general good health and strong healthy bones. Known as the SUNSHINE VITAMIN it is often quoted and frequently misunderstood and that’s just the scientists!

 

We are very northern hemisphere! As the winter progresses we stop looking forward, start looking inward. Everything’s not quite right, there’s a restlessness; we know it’s coming but can’t stop it. There’ s no evidence that we went to ground, but there’s nothing quite like a British winter to stir up a bit of melancholy. It’s never as bad as we anticipate but every day is terrible.

We are all searching for the holy grail, but is vitamin D the answer?

It seems ironic that we in the northern hemisphere lack sufficient sunshine most of the year to the extent that it may be doing us harm, yet in the brief window of summer we are encouraged to cover up and protect ourselves from its evil rays.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Cancer, melanoma was found to be more common in workers who spent time indoors, and in body parts that are not exposed to the the sun.

It is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 100% of Americans, depending upon their age and community living environments, are deficient in Vitamin D. More than half of all American children are vitamin deficient. Supposedly almost 3/4s of pregnant women are vitamin D deficient, predisposing their unborn children to all sorts of problems. Worldwide, it is estimated that the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency affects one billion people. 

Some researchers are convinced that by increasing vitamin D3 levels among the general population we could prevent many chronic diseases that claim over 1 million lives a year, slashing the incidence of cancer in half.

What is Vitamin D?

Although it’s called a vitamin, vitamin D is really a hormone and not actually a vitamin. Vitamins cannot be produced by your body, we get them from dietary sources, whereas vitamin D is made in your body.

How is it made?

Vitamin D is carried in the bloodstream to the liver where it is converted to the prohormone calcidol. It then becomes calcitriol in the kidneys; this is the biologically active form of vitamin D.

Calcitriol circulates as a hormone in the blood, regulating the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream and promoting the healthy growth and remodeling of bone. Calcitriol also affects neuromuscular and immune function.

Why do we need vitamin D?

Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D results in soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia). You also need vitamin D for other important body functions. 

Where do we get it vitamin D?

Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D isn’t naturally available in many foods. About 10% of your vitamin D comes from diet, so it is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet alone.

If you’re looking for that 10% from diet add:

  • Fatty wild fish like mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring
  • Fortified milk, orange juice and cereal
  • Dried Shitake mushrooms
  • Egg yolks  

The best and natural source of Vitamin D is exposure to the sun. How much time you spend in the sun is in question, but the vast majority of research says 20 minutes per day of exposure to your body in the spring, summer and autumn will suffice. It is impossible to overdose on Vitamin D from the sun alone. The body gets it’s hit and switches off.

Sunscreen absorbs or reflects ultraviolet light and prevents much of it from reaching the skin. Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 based on the UVB spectrum decreases vitamin D synthetic capacity by 95%, and SPF 15 decreases it by 98%.

Can you get too much vitamin D?

Not from the sun, but the increased use of supplements is asking a few questions. In the past medics encouraged the elderly to take vitamin D for bone health. The feeling was that it might help them anyway and would do them no harm. 

Studies in the last five years have shown that vitamin D and calcium supplements are ineffective in the prevention of fractures in the elderly and could even lead to heart disease through hypercalcemia.

In short, we need vitamin D but no amount of dieting will get you enough, so you have to get out there and soak up the sun.