Vitamin D: Sunshine for All Seasons
BY MELISSA WILSON, M.S., AND SUSAN CARLSON, R.PH.
As the days grow shorter and fall moves into winter, supplemental vitamin D is increasingly important.Vital for several functions in our bodies, higher blood concentrations of vitamin D are now associated with good health and strong bodies.
Yet deficiencies of the "sunshine vitamin" are widely prevalent across all age groups, particularly the elderly and institutionalized. The risk of insufficiency increases for those wintering in northern latitudes, as does the need for higher daily intake requirements as we age. Numerous studies report increased rates of vitamin D insufficiency, exemplifying the need for supplementation, often at levels of more than 400 IU per day.
Our evolution has designed us to live in the presence of far more vitamin D than most of us receive now. Our ancestors had considerably greater sun exposure compared to our tendency to cover our skin or use sun block. Studies indicate that one full-body exposure to sunlight (enough time to just start to sunburn) can be the equivalent to an oral vitamin D3 intake of 10,000 IU (250 mcg).
VITAMIN D SUPPORTS …
… Strong Bones
Vitamin D is best known for its role in building strong bones by regulating calcium absorption and metabolism. Deficiencies are often associated with muscle weakness, poor coordination, osteoporosis, and increased fractures. In clinical studies, the use of 800 to 1000 IU per day of supplemental vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol—considered the natural form produced by solar UV rays in humans and animal skin), along with calcium, helped improve bone density, muscle strength, and reduce fractures.
… Proper Insulin Function and Levels
Proper levels of vitamin D have also been shown to offer protection from insulin-dependent Type I diabetes. Normal insulin secretion is dependent on this vitamin. Studies indicate that reduced vitamin D status may contribute to both insulin resistance and reduced insulin secretion.
… Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
In the American Journal of Public Health, researchers sited a preponderance of scientific evidence that supplemental vitamin D can greatly reduce cancer risk. This highly publicized report concluded that people should take 1000 IU of vitamin D per day to reduce colon, prostate, and ovarian cancer risks by up to 50%.
Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that is influenced by environmental factors. The British Journal of Nutrition reported that the incidences of MS are greatest in populations having the lowest ultraviolet (UV) exposure, except for those consuming diets high in vitamin D. In the United States, there are higher incidences of MS from the northern to southern areas. The incidences of MS in those living near the equator are close to zero.
It is well-documented that vitamin D levels decline in the winter, a time when SAD is prevalent. An experiment published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging was conducted on 15 SAD patients who were given either full-spectrum light 2 hours daily for a month, or one dose of 100,000 IU of vitamin D (a fat-soluble vitamin, which normally enables its levels to be raised in the body for months). Psychological testing showed the g roup supplementing vitamin D had greater improvement over the phototherapy group, with an increase in vitamin D of more than double the amount.
Where to Get It?
For those with limited sun exposure, optimal vitamin D can be obtained from food. Unfortunately, it is found naturally in very few foods, i.e., fatty fish (salmon, herring, and sardines), fish liver oils, and eggs from vitamin D-fed hens. This makes dietary supplementation necessary, particularly for those in northern latitudes and with limited sun exposure.
How Much to Take?
The need for vitamin D has been extensively studied by Dr. Reinhold Vieth of Mount Sinai Hospital and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. His 2-to-5 month study of 61 people indicates that 4000 IU daily is safe for healthy adults, and that the current Recommended Daily Values of 400 to 600 IU of vitamin D are set too low to maintain blood levels of vitamin D in absence of skin production of vitamin D with sunlight.
Based on their results, researchers in this study concluded that healthy people seem to use 3000-5000 IU per day of vitamin D.
To meet these requirements, the NEEDS Wellness Team recommends Vitamin D 2000 IU from Carlson Labs.
Research shows that pure, clear sunlight can have measurable, highly beneficial effects on our health, both physiological and psychological. The answer seems to be that, if we can't go into the light, then we have to bring the light to us.
Excerpts taken from "Vitamin D: Your Sunshine for All Seasons," by Melissa Wilson, M.S., and Susan Carlson, R.Ph., HealthGems: News for a Healthy Lifestyle, Vol. 1, Issue 2.