Vitamin D Article by Shawn Nisbet
Do You Need Vitamin D Supplementation?
VITAMIN D “The Sunshine Vitamin”
Vitamin D is so important that your body makes this hormone in the skin in the presence of sunlight but this can pose a problem for us living in the northern climates.
Most of us know we need vitamin D for strong bones. Now it appears that vitamin D, or rather a lack of it, may play a role in asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, diabetes and even weight gain.
All ages require sufficient vitamin D levels and recent research papers show conclusively that older people with adequate vitamin D levels have better muscle control, lower blood pressure, and fewer ills such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis, compared with people with lower vitamin levels. Better health translates into a lower death rate.
Dark skinned people make less vitamin D than light-skinned people therefore those living in northern climates like Canada could be at a disadvantage.
Your health may depend on knowing the answers to some of these questions
- Why is vitamin D important to your overall health?
- How can you get enough vitamin D?
- Did you get enough sun this summer?
- Do you need to wear your sunscreen all summer?
- Is there a safe or best time to be out in the sun?
- Should you have your vitamin D serum levels checked?
- What health concerns has vitamin D deficiency been associated with?
- Which foods contain Vitamin D?
- Since most foods high in Vitamin D are also high in cholesterol, should you avoid them?
- Will your medication have a negative effect on your Vitamin D levels?
- Can you take too much vitamin D?
Why is vitamin D important to your overall health?
Your body must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth.
Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies.
The Vitamin D may be found helpful in treating or preventing autism, autoimmune disease, cancer, chronic pain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, flu, neuromuscular diseases, and osteoporosis.
How can you get enough vitamin D?
Did you know that those who live in sunnier climates make 5000-10,000IU of vitamin D from the sun everyday! For those of us who live in Canada we end our summers with levels typically between 30-50nmol, a level at which our overall health is being compromised.
Research says. If you live in Canada and do not receive at least 15 minutes of sunshine at least 3 days per week from mid-May to mid August between the hours of 11 am – 3 pm you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Did you get enough sun this summer?
Anything that blocks UVB will block vitamin D production; this includes windows, smog, clothing, sunscreen, complexion and age (older adults are not as efficient at producing vitamin D). In Canada we don’t get the chance make enough vitamin D until June when we can wear shorts and a T-shirt.
Dark skin absorbs less sunlight, so people with dark skin do not get as much vitamin D from sun exposure as do light-skinned people. This is a particular problem for African-Americans in northern climates. It could take 3 – 6 times as long for a darker skinned person to make adequate vitamin D compared to a light skinned individual.
Do you need to wear sunscreen all summer?
Sunscreen absorbs ultraviolet light and prevents it from reaching the skin. It has been reported that sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 based on the UVB spectrum can decrease vitamin D synthetic capacity by 95 percent, whereas sunscreen with an SPF of 15 can reduce synthetic capacity by 98 percent .
Occasional sunlight exposure to your face and hands is insufficient for vitamin D nutrition for most people. To optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun, and you may need to do it for more than a few minutes
Is there a safe or best time to be out in the sun?
Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths – UVA and UVB. It’s important to understand the difference between these rays, and the risk factors from each. There are UVB (healthy wavelengths) that help your skin produce vitamin D and then the UVA, which is generally considered the unhealthy wavelengths because they penetrate your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage. UVA rays are also quite constant during all hours of daylight, throughout the entire year. UVB rays are low in morning and evening and high at midday.
To maximize your vitamin D production from the sun and minimize your risk of skin damage, the middle of the day (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) is the best and safest time. During this UVB intense period you will need the shortest sun exposure time to produce the most vitamin D. Perhaps spending some time eating your lunch in the sunshine would benefit whereas sunbathing on the beach may cause harm.
As far as the optimal length of exposure, you only need enough to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. This may only be a few minutes for those who have very pale skin.
Once you have reached this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D and any further exposure will only result in damage to your skin. Most people with fair skin may require only 10 – 20 minutes per day to make sufficient vitamin D levels. Some will need less, others more. The darker your skin, the longer exposure you will need to optimize your vitamin D production.
Should you have your vitamin D serum levels checked?
If you did not find yourself in adequate sunshine this summer you may want to have your vitamin D serum level checked however, many specialists in the field suggest not testing vitamin D levels because deficiency (below 75nmol) is the norm in Canada and not the exception. Other researchers feel that optimum sun exposure, when there is enough UVB, will most likely only satisfy those with fairer complexions; therefore everyone should take at least 1,000 – 2,000 I U daily. But is this sufficient?
Food sources are simply not enough to consistently raise blood levels to where they should be. Supplementation is widely recommended by health professionals. Health Canada has set the new Upper Level (UL) to 4000IU per day for those over 9 years of age. This will ensure that 98% of the Canadian population will achieve a blood level of about 100-125nmol promoted by experts.
The cost of a serum Vitamin D in an Ontario lab starts at $32.00. If your vitamin D count was low on a test your follow up test will usually be free.
What health concerns has a Vitamin D deficiency been associated with?
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Increased cardiovascular risk
- Autoimmune disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease
- Pregnancy risks such as pre-eclampsia
- Cancers of the colon, breast, skin and prostate
- Depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Diabetes, Type 1 and 2
- Gluten intolerance
- Heart disease
- Sexual dysfunction
- Learning and behavior disorders
- Misaligned teeth and cavities
- Osteomalacia (adult rickets)
*Always seek professional assistance with your vitamin D supplementation when working with health challenges like sarciodosis, liver or kidney disease or hypo or hyperparathyroidism.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin and hormone
- There are about 200 different kinds of cells with receptors for vitamin D, which plays a strong role in boosting immune function and repairing damaged cells. These factors may explain its anti-cancer properties.
- Vitamin D is a steroid hormone — not a vitamin — that influences virtually every cell in your body, and is easily one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters.
- Vitamin D influences nearly 3,000 of your genes, and it plays a major role in your immune response, including helping your body produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides that help fight all sorts of infections.
Which foods contain vitamin D?
We must first distinguish between D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is what’s produced by the skin upon exposure to sunlight (adequate UVB), found in some foods [mostly fatty fish], and in supplements. D2 is the vegetarian version [mainly from mushrooms] and it’s widely accepted to be less potent than D3. D2 is used to fortify non-dairy beverages like soy, almond and rice.
Vitamin D3 Food Sources
- Salmoncooked, especially wild-caught, 100 g (3.5 oz) provides 360 IU
- Mackeral cooked, especially wild-caught, 100 g (3.5 oz), 345 IU
- Sardines, canned in oil, drained, (3 oz), 164 IU
- Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light, 1 cup, 2 IU
- Tuna, canned in oil, 100 g (3.5 oz), 235 IU
- A whole eg provides 20 IU
- Beef liver, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz), provides 15 IU
- Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, 1 440 IU
- Fortified milk, yogurt and cheese (amounts on package) but remember it is usually D2
Since most foods high in Vitamin D are also high in cholesterol, should you avoid them?
Recommendations today usually say to lower your cholesterol levels because high cholesterol is said to be related to increase in heart disease and to stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen at all times because sun damage is linked to increase in cancer risks. Perhaps moderation is the key along with a discussion with your health professional.
Since cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D, inhibiting the synthesis of cholesterol will also inhibit the synthesis of vitamin D. Since sunlight is required to turn cholesterol into vitamin D, avoiding the sun will likewise undermine our ability to synthesize vitamin D. And since vitamin D-rich foods are also rich in cholesterol, low-cholesterol diets are inherently deficient in vitamin D.
Vitamin D is best known for its role in calcium metabolism and bone health, but new roles are continually being discovered for vitamin D, including roles in mental health, blood sugar regulation, the immune system, and cancer prevention. Standard modern advice says to take cholesterol-lowering drugs, avoid the sun, eat a low-cholesterol diet and to take daily vitamin D of between 400 – 1,000 IU that is much lower than what many researchers believe to be sufficient amounts. These statements pose many questions that are important to think about.
Will my medication have a negative effect on my Vitamin D levels?
Steroid medications can interfere with metabolism of vitamin D. If you take steroids, you should discuss vitamin D with your doctor. The same is true for some weight loss drugs, some cholesterol-lowering drugs, and seizure drugs such as phenobarbitol. Cholesterol-lowering statins, on the other hand, will raise vitamin D levels but this should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Can you take too much vitamin D?
There is an upper limit to how much vitamin D you can safely take. The Institute of Medicine recommendations for adults say that a daily intake of up to 4,000 IU of vitamin D is safe. Some say that taking more than 10,000 IU per day can cause kidney and tissue damage. The best approach is to check with your nutritionist or health care provider before taking vitamin D supplements.
Your healthcare provider will take into consideration factors which can influence your vitamin D absorption such as latitude, skin colour, the season, your lifestyle and diet, age over 50 and whether you spend time indoors or outdoors along with your serum vitamin D test before recommending vitamin D supplementation.
Vitamin D Studies
Examples of some Vitamin D Studies
Vitamin D3 and Depression. It isn’t clear how they are related. But studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to depression among older men and women. One possible explanation is that lack of vitamin D causes the parathyroid gland to produce more hormones. Low levels of vitamin D and higher levels of parathyroid hormone have been linked to depression severity.
Optimal Vitamin D3 may delay knee surgery. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with the loss of cartilage in the knee joint of older individuals, researchers report. Cartilage loss is the hallmark of osteoarthritis. By the time patients reach the point of needing knee replacement, 60% of cartilage has been lost
Obesity Linked to Lower Vitamin D Levels. Research linked obesity with lower levels of vitamin D because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. People who are obese may be less able to convert vitamin D into its hormonally active form. Obese people may take in as much vitamin D from the sun, food, or supplements as people who are not obese, but their [blood] levels will tend to be lower.
Eat a Healthy Diet😊
Studies confirm that a modern diet consisting of fast foods, processed meats, GMO grains and food, vegetables, trans fats, hormone and antibiotic laden meats, and factory produced milk contribute significantly to causing many illnesses. The body was never meant to be assaulted in this manner.
People most prone to a vitamin D deficiency include those who live in northern regions with little sunlight exposure, people with darker skin, people on low fat diets and those taking steroids and weight loss medications.