Vitamin D: A Quick Guide to the Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D became an interest of mine when my physician told me my levels were too low. Now, news of a vitamin D deficiency epidemic is topping the charts, and health experts are growing keen to the widespread need for more vitamin D.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin with hormone-like functions that plays several roles in the body. Vitamin D is unique in that the body is able to produce it when ultraviolet rays, specifically UVB, penetrate the skin. When these ultra violet rays come into contact with a compound in the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol (a cholesterol precursor), this compound is converted to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (vitamin D3), the active form of vitamin D.
What Can Vitamin D Do for You?
Lots of things! Vitamin D has long been known as calcium’s trusty partner in bone maintenance, but it also has many other important functions. Its primary roles are:
- Facilitating calcium absorption in the gut
- Maintaining calcium and phosphate serums needed for various body functions
- Promoting bone growth and remodeling by osteoblasts and osteoclasts (vital to maintaining bone integrity)
- Protecting against rickets (in small children)
Research is also finding that low vitamin D levels may also be associated with:
- Heart disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Poor immune function
- Behavioral or mood changes
- Hormonal imbalances
- Pregnancy complications
It’s a proven fact that vitamin D is essential for a long, healthy life. Remarkably, one study showed that vitamin D deficiency could increase your risk of dying by 26%.
Should You Take a Vitamin D Supplement?
Let’s just say vitamin D supplementation is highly recommended! Developing at staggeringly shocking rates are the numbers of men, women and children that are testing low for this critical nutrient. Many factors can compromise your body’s ability to produce vitamin D, including:
- Air pollution
- Living in a city (Tall buildings and large amounts of shade can reduce sun exposure.)
- Geographic location (People living at latitudes 37 degrees north or south of the equator are more at risk for low D levels.)
- Use of sunscreen
- Seasons (We get more in the summer than we do in the winter.)
- Being indoors a lot, or being homebound
- Having a darker skin tone
Should Your Children Take a Vitamin D Supplement?
It is now estimated that children spend almost 55 hours a week indoors watching TV, playing on the computer or other portable device and texting. Add that to the hours they spend in school and the hours they spend sleeping, and you are left with very little sunshine time!
We are, unfortunately, becoming a sedentary society and over the years this has compromised the amount of vitamin D synthesized in our bodies. Additionally, as we have grown savvy about using SPF in sunscreens to prevent damage to the skin, we have reduced our kids’ exposure to the UV rays responsible for producing vitamin D. So it’s a good idea consider fortified foods sources and supplements for your children.
Food First: Good Sources of Vitamin D
Most of the vitamin D in the American diet comes from fortified foods since it is hard to find in natural food sources. Here are some of the best food sources of vitamin D:
- Salmon, sardines and cod
- Eggs (It’s in the yolk, so don’t opt for just egg whites.)
- Fortified milk
- Fortified yogurt
- Fortified orange juice
Should You Worry About Taking Too Much Vitamin D?
For a number of years it was thought that too much vitamin D could be risky, however more recent studies are indicating that higher doses are quite favorable. With the vitamin D deficiency reaching epidemic proportions among Americans, and consequent health risks being associated, a red flag has been raised. It’s best to speak with your physician and find out your current levels of vitamin D. We advocate at least 2,000-3,000 IU a day of supplemental vitamin D3 for adults for optimum wellness.
Casie is Stop Aging Now’s Lead Nutrition Expert and a Certified Nutrition Counselor. Her mission? To help people make the healthiest choices possible along their path to optimal wellness.
Have a question about nutrition or supplements? Send Casie an email.