What are the Health Benefits of Vitamin D? When is the Best time to Top Up on the Sunshine Vitamin
Best source of vitamin D is sunlight
Vitamin D Health Benefits
© J Alexis-Hagues 2013
Most of us already know about the benefits of vitamin D; that vitamin D is essential for the maintenance of good health, growth and healthy bones. However, studies suggest that the majority of people still fail to recognise the signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, and do not yet appreciate the significant health benefits we can enjoy when we maintain a healthy level of vitamin D In the body.
Research shows that Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and many more serious conditions. As we endeavor to take more vitamin C and E are we overlooking the importance of vitamin D, and are we getting enough?
We all live busy lives, when we get some well needed down time, many of us tend to remain indoors, we want to relax, be entertained, surrendering to the box is very tempting.
In the UK; chances are, it will be raining, wet and dreary with no real enticement to go out to play. With less exposure to sunlight, we are just not getting sufficient vitamin D.
On the 29 of October 2012, UK launched its first National Vitamin D Awareness Week, this was done in an attempt to raise awareness and to better understand the dangers of vitamin D deficiency.
A survey performed by the health pioneering and forward-thinking group, 'BetterYou' found that a large number of the UK population, a massive 9 out of 10 people could be suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Other surveys of UK adults, found that 77 % spent much of their days indoors. Of the UK adults surveyed, two-thirds were deficient in vitamin D, a shocking 71% were diagnosed as 'severely deficient', and took no vitamin D supplements.
Betteryou previously tested over 250 people in the UK for blood serum levels of vitamin D; they found not a single person with a healthy level of vitamin D.
Gone are the days when children played happily outdoors, most of their free time is now spent on computers, or watching TV; children in the twenty-first century are exposed to less sunlight than did their predecessors, this is believed to be having a significant impact on their health.
Information collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the US, found that 9%; a shocking 7.6 million children across the US were vitamin D deficient.
Since 90% of the body's vitamin D comes directly from exposure to the sun, and as little as 10% of our diet, many of us in the Northern hemisphere, are clearly at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, affectionally known as the sunshine vitamin is a steroid vitamin, from the fat-soluble vitamin group, most of which are synthesized by the body from cholesterol when the skin is exposed to the UV rays of the sun. The rest we get from our diet. When insufficient vitamin D is present in the body, the result can be deficiency disease.
Vitamin D is unique; it is not like most vitamins. Our body turns vitamin D into a hormone sometimes called, “activated vitamin D” or calcitriol. As a result of sunlight on the skin, vitamin D is produced and sent to the liver where it is changed into a substance known as 25(OH)D.
When medical tests are performed to ascertain the levels of vitamin D, the results refer to the serum or blood concentration of 25(OH)D and not the amount of vitamin stored in the body tissue.
Vitamin D enhances the intestinal absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus in humans. It enables healthy bone growth, and is important in maintaining healthy teeth and muscles; it prevents rickets in children and Osteomalacia in adults. When taken with calcium, Vitamin D may also help to protect older people from osteoporosis.
Lack of vitamin D can cause bones to become brittle, thin or misshapen.
Vitamin D have many functions that include:
Helping to regulate calcium levels in bones, tissue and blood
Immune system regulator helps to fight infection
Neuromuscular function, help maintain healthy heart, circulation, and brain development
Respiratory function for healthy lungs and airways
Facilitate the absorption of nutrients from the intestine ( calcium and phosphate)
Control the amount of calcium in the blood (help to prevent hypertension)
Scientists are still trying to understand fully how vitamin D works within the body, and how it affects our overall health. With a wealth of new information coming to light, it is believed that people who are exposed to a reasonable amount of sunlight throughout the year, are receiving sufficient vitamin D, and do not require supplements. However, most of us are not exposed to enough sunlight and are not getting the necessary amount of vitamin D for a healthy body.
So far, there are five forms of vitamin D discovered, known collectively as calciferol; they are vitamin D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5. But only two forms of D vitamins appears to be most significant to us humans. They are vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol and vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol
Many of us remain confused about the information we receive in regards to the amount of sunlight to which we can safely expose our bodies, before suffering adverse health consequences.
On one hand, we are told we need a certain amount of UV sunlight to maintain a healthy level of vitamin D, but we're also told to reduce our exposure to the damaging effects of the sun. So we slap on the sun block, cover up and wear large hats In the summer time, but now, we are told to go out and get some sun while it lasts. So how much sun is enough, and how much is too much?
There is no single recommendation for the amount of UV exposure we require to maintain good health, the amount of time we need in the sunlight, for the skin to make sufficient vitamin D is different for each person. An optimum level of vitamin D largely depends on:
The time of the year, even the time of the day will influence the level of UV to which we expose our bodies.
- Located, people who live in the Northern Hemisphere are exposed to less sunlight. The further from the equator we live, the less vitamin D the body can make during the winter months.
- Our skin type and colour, this depends on how dark the skin is, and how easily we get sun-burnt. Melanin is a substance that affects the colour of the skin, the more melanin the skin contains, the darker the skin. Melanin protects against skin damage from too much exposure to sunlight. The amount of melanin in the skin affects the amount of vitamin D we produce.
- Our daily activities, people who spend more time outdoors, will make more vitamin D. Short daily periods of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months are sufficient for most people to make vitamin D. Studies suggest that the most efficient time of day to produce vitamin D is between 11 am and 3 pm. A short period of 10 to 15 minutes will suffice, for most people.
- Circumstances, for those who can afford to, holidays in a warmer climate can be a good way to top-up on vitamin D during the winter months.
The larger the area of skin exposed to sunlight, the higher the chances of making enough vitamin D before causing burns and skin damage.
People with darker skin will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as those with lighter skin. In the UK, the skin is not able to make vitamin D from winter sunlight between the months of November to March. During the wintry months, there is not sufficient UVB radiation, our Vitamin D comes from what is stored in the body and our food sources.
There are groups of people with intestinal vitamin D malabsorption that may be due to conditions such as Crohn's, Cystic Fibrosis, Kidneys and Liver disease, IBS, bowel resection and gastric bypass surgery. Since vitamin D supplements is not an option for maintaining healthy levels in these cases, UVB phototherapy devices may be useful where the test shows a deficiency in vitamin D.
The debates seem set to run, on the subject of how much Vitamin D we require to maintain good health. As of 2010, the Independent Institute of Medicine recommended that people between the ages of 1-70 should get 600 IUs (International Units) of the vitamin daily, for those 71 years and older, 800 IU daily, for pregnant and lactating women 600 IU daily.
New research suggests adults may need between 1000 - 2000 IU of vitamin D per day to maintain health. However, the recommendation also states that serum 25(OH)D levels of 20 ng/ml are adequate and levels > 50 ng/ml could have a potential adverse effect.
Watch videos (3) for more information on optimum and recommended doses Of Vitamin D.
How much vitamin do we need? From the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health
Birth to 12 months
Children 1-13 years
Teens 14-18 years
Adults 19-70 years
Adults 71 years and older
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
Different Skin Type: Source Vitamin D Council
White; very fair, red or blond hair; blue eyes; freckles
Always burns, never tans
White; fair; red or blond hair; blue, hazel, or green eyes
Usually burns, tans with difficulty
Cream white; fair with any eye or hair colour; very common
Sometimes mild burn, gradually tans
Brown; typical Mediterranean Caucasian skin
Rarly burns, tans with ease
Dark Brown; mid-eastern skin type
Very rarely burns, tans very easily
Never burns, tans very easily
Vitamin D Deficient
The simplest way to diagnose vitamin D deficiency is by blood serum test. The blood serum test can be provided by doctors, or by purchasing a home test kit.
Research shows that low blood level of vitamin D can be associated with the following:
- The Flu
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older people
- Severe asthma in children
- Respiratory diseases
- muscle weakness
- Chronic kidney disease
- Periodontal disease
- Schizophrenia and depression
Facts on sources of vitamin D
- The best way to get sufficient vitamin D is to spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sun, the sun provide 90% of the body's vitamin D
- 10% of vitamin D comes from our diet, eat more oily fish and vitamin D fortified foods
- Get Tested for serum Vit D levels
- Take Vitamin D supplements in the winter months. All year round for people who are unable to tolerate sunlight
- Sunscreen makes it harder to make enough vitamin D
- In the US many foods are fortified with vitamin D, compare nutritional labels at supermarket
- For all ages, the RDA of vitamin D is between 600 IU and 800 IU
- Those of us with darker skins and are living in colder climates need more time in the sun and may also need to take vitamin D supplements
Source of Vitamin D
Sunshine, as mentioned above, 90% of our vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight, It is believed that our bodies produce the most vitamin D in the month of June, when the sun is highest in the Northern Hemisphere. However; according to a new study, vitamin D levels in the US peaks in August and bottom out in February. People who believe that they may be deficient in vitamin D should get tested; the best time would be in the month of February when levels are at its lowest.
According to John Cannell, executive director of the 'not for profit' Vitamin D Council, in an article for USA Today, “research shows that some American's vitamin D levels are not adequate in the winter. If they don't supplement, they are going to be deficient” however Cannell apparently, was not involved in the study.
The source of the remaining 10% Vitamin D, we get from our diet, but very few foods in nature contain vitamin D, best sources are cod liver Oil and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and pilchards.
There are mall amounts of vitamin D in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Fortified foods such as milk, margarine, yogurt, some brands of fruit juices and some breakfast cereals, provides much of the Vitamin D in the diet of industrialized countries, like the US, and Canada.
UK milk and dairy products contain little or no vitamin D, only baby formula and margarine are fortified with vitamin D supplements.
Who Needs to Take Vitamin D Supplements?
A mild vitamin D deficiency may not cause major symptoms, but it may cause tiredness and generalized aches and pain. Severe deficiency can lead to osteomalacia (softening of the bone) in adults and rickets in children; there are also links to other conditions such as cancer, asthma, type ll diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer's, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, Crohn's and Type1 diabetes.
Some people are more at risk of vitamin D deficiency than others and are recommended to take Vitamin D supplements routinely, and they include:
All pregnant and breastfeeding women
All infants and young children six months to five years
People aged 65 and older
Individuals who are not exposed to much sunlight
People with darker skin, such as those of African Caribbean and South Asian origin
- People with certain kidney, liver or gut diseases
In conclusion, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many serious conditions. However, this does not mean that everyone with vitamin D deficiency will get these conditions. People who suspect that they may be Vit D deficient should get as much information as possible from doctors or health care providers. Request a serum test to ascertain the baseline vitamin D levels, the best time to do this is believed to be February to March when levels are at the lowest. Always remember to do as much research as possible, be aware of contraindications.
Watch the public information video no. 3
Video ( 1) Vitamin D for Cancer
Have you suffered from Vitamin D deficiency? If so did you;
© 2013 Jo Alexis-Hagues