Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D has been making headline news lately.  Newer research is showing that vitamin D does much more than help make our bones strong.  Health professionals are now taking note and many of us have had our blood levels of vitamin D tested for the first time.  Some experts estimate that as many as half of all Americans are  lacking in the sunshine vitamin.

The sunshine vitamin gets its nickname from its unique ability to be created right under your skin in the presence of UVB sun rays.  At least 10 - 15 minutes of adequate sun at least 3 times each week is sufficient to make plenty of vitamin D.  The darker your skin is, the less ability you have to absorb the needed rays.  Sun screen of SPF 30 and higher will reduce 99% of the potential vitamin D formation. Another problem is that people living at higher latitudes will have insufficient UVB rays available to them in the winter months. Drawing a line from San Francisco to Philadelphia, those that live north will need added vitamin D from November to February, even if they were to try to sun bathing for hours (brrr!!)

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that we need to be consuming a small amount of fat sometime during the day in order to absorb and utilize the vitamin.  People who are on fat-free diets will have difficulty absorbing any of the fat soluble vitamins-- A, D, E and K.  Fat free diets are definitely not a good choice for good health (unless there is a medical reason, and you are carefully monitored by a physician.) Consuming excessively high amounts of any fat soluble vitamin can be toxic, and D is no exception.

Major Roles of Vitamin D:

  • Plays a critical role in the absorption of calcium.  That's why you take calcium supplements with vitamin D.
  • Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
  • Helps with immune system function.
  • Aids in reduction of inflammation.
Low levels of Vitamin D
  • Rickets, a childhood disease in which bones don't form properly and remain soft and pliable.  
  • Osteomalacia, an adult disease where bones degrade and become soft and pliable.
  • Muscle and bone pain and weakness.
Research is suggesting that vitamin D may help with*:
  • Multiple sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes, both auto immune diseases.
  • Regulating blood glucose,  increasing insulin sensitivity, and preventing type 2 diabetes
  • SAD (seasonal affectiveness disorder,) depression
  • Postmenopausal weight gain
  • Cancer prevention
  • Psoriasis
How Much "D" Do You Need? Current recommendations are from 200 - 600 IU;  the need goes up with age.  The recommended levels are now under review by the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board, and will likely soon be increased. Dark skinned, elderly(ability to absorb vitamin D decreases with age), nursing babies, obese, and people who get insufficient sunlight, often need supplements to achieve adequate blood levels of vitamin D. Many experts are now recommending an intake of 1000 IU each day. Check with your doctor to be sure. 

Foods high in vitamin D :
  • Fatty fish, 3 oz (Salmon, trout, sardine, tuna)    50 - 800 IU 
  • Egg yolks                                                               25 
  • Beef liver, 3 oz                                                       46                                                        
  • Fortified Milk, 8 oz                                              100
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Other fortified foods (some yogurts, cereals, etc.)
*though more research is needed

Vitamin D is so important to good health!  Be proactive with your health and ask your doctor about your levels. Get in the sun for a few minutes of pure rays when you can, but make sure you are getting plenty of D in other ways when you're not.

Fire Up!  You Can Do It!!