Vitamin D -- The Sun Vitamin
Why take vitamin D (or not) / how to boost vitamin D naturally, avoid vitamin D insufficiency
At my last physical I got some news that stunned me -- in a good way. Though an estimated 70 percent (or more) of folks in my area suffer from vitamin D deficiency -- blame the long, gray winters -- my vitaminD levels were A-OK, said the doc. I wondered aloud how I'd pulled that off. I try to eat healthy but am not particularly vitamin savvy. It's more about sun, he said. Hmm. Could it be those 4-5 short runs I do outside every week, even in winter? Sometimes I'm only out for 20 minutes. Could that be enough to fight off vitamin D insufficiency? I decided to do some research, and here's what I learned ...
(painting: Vincent Van Gogh, Olive Trees With Yellow Sun and Sky, public domain)
Why does Vitamin D matter?
Long recognized for its effect on on bone health,
vitamin D is now believed to help lower the risk of
certain cancers & may even help prevent illnesses
such as diabetes.
Here Comes the Sun
The good news is that most Americans are getting enough vitamin D, says a 2011 National Center for Health Statistics study, citing adequate D levels for 67% of the population. I'm guessing that population-rich, sunny California is pulling our stats up :)
More good news? Our skin is brilliant at manufacturing vitaminD from the sun's UV-B rays. I could indeed be getting my daily vitaminD from runs in the sun, even when they only last 20 minutes. Paler folks can benefit from as little as 5-10 minutes per day without sunscreen, while darker skin requires 10-20 minutes or more. It's amazing, though -- just 6 days of "casual sun exposure" can make up for 49 sunless days.
***A caveat: Check with your doctor before embarking on an unprotected-sun (yes, I know that sounds vaguely R rated) regime, as the risk of skin cancer could outweight the potential vitaminD benefits**** -- especially if you have a personal or family history of melanoma.
Because of the sun's lower position in the sky, it's harder for those of us in colder climes to get enough D from the sun in wintertime. During those months, diet and (possibly) vitamin D supplementation become more important.
Experts recommend 400 to 800 IUs of vitamin D per day, although some are pushing for much higher targets. The tricky thing is that excess D is stored in the body, so vitamin D toxicity is a concern, when folks go D-crazy. The recommended upper limit for vitamin D is <4,000 IUs per day, with most people needing far less than that.
VitaminD food sources include salmon (360 IUs in a 3.5 ounce serving -- wow!), shrimp (150 IUs per 3 oz), vitamin D fortified milk or orange juice (100 IUs per 8-oz glass), and D fortified cereals such as Cheerios and Raisin Bran. Eggs have a small amount of D, and some yogurts are fortified with it. Check labels!
Vitamin D Supplementation
Why take Vitamin D (or not) in supplement form
The 600 IUs of vitamin D that most of us need is achievable through diet & sunlight during the warmer months, If you know you're getting enough D through food and sun (a simple blood test can confirm this), there's no need to add more.
In winter, it can become harder to get enough D through diet and the great outdoors. High-quality supplements in moderate amounts can prevent vitamin D deficiency. ****Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement**** and, to avoid vitamin D toxicity, do not exceed your doctor's recommended dosage. You most definitely can get too much of this very good thing....to the detriment of your heart, blood vessels & kidneys.
Fight vitamin D insuffieciency with high-quality vitamin D supplementation IF prescribed by your doctor
Nordic Naturals supplements offers top-quality supplements, including an easily absorbed form of Vitamin D. Always check with your doctor! Not everyone needs a supplement to prevent vitamin D insufficiency, and even if you do need one, you'll want your doc to instruct on dosage.
VitaminD Resource Roundup
Just the best links...
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D? -- WebMD
Vitamin D -- Mayo Clinic
Five Easy Ways to Get More Vitamin D -- Glamour
3 Ways to Get More Vitamin D -- TODAY
Five Ways Vitamin D Could Save Your Life -- Good Morning America
WHfoods: Vitamin D -- WHfoods
Vitamin D, Miracle Drug: Is It Science, or Just Talk? -- New York Times
Have you had your vitamin D level checked?
What's your vitaminD story? Do you go out of your way to get enough, or just hope it happens naturally? What are your secrets for preventing vitamin D deficiency?