The sunshine vitamin: D
Just a few years ago, vitamin D was simply known as the”bone vitamin”. Thanks to the hard work of many scientists, especially Michael Holick, MD, a pioneer in vitamin D research, the data show that nearly every tissue and cell type in the body has receptors for vitamin D. As a result of this discovery, much higher doses are required for optimal functioning. This discovery has radically changed how we understand the role of vitamin D in the body (lifeextension.com).
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is different from other vitamins because we actually do not make much vitamin D on our own. We must have sunlight exposure and eat food sources to supply our body with this much-needed vitamin (which is actually converted to a hormone). As a pro-hormone, Vitamin D affects hormone balance and immune regulation of the body.
Unless your body is at optimal levels, you are creating a risk for a wide range of diseases like heart So what is the optimal level? First, you need to get tested for your vitamin D level. The lab range will tell you that as long as you are above 30, your great. I disagree. All the research around vitamin D, shows that heart disease, cancer, depression BEGIN when you have a vitamin D level below 60. So why on earth would you want to be less than that? I sure don’t want my levels that low and if you already have a chronic health condition or autoimmune disease, I would strive to keep your levels around 80. Now that is a far cry above the bare minimum of 30 that you are lead to believe is normal.
Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a global epidemic. An estimated 1 billion people do not have adequate vitamin D levels. And 64% of Americans don’t have enough vitamin D to keep all of their tissues operating at peak capacity. According to mainstream medical standards, there are three levels of vitamin D status: sufficient, insufficient, and deficient.
- People who are considered vitamin D “sufficient” have blood levels of at least 30 ng/mL.
- However, optimal vitamin D status is achieved with a minimum of 50 ng/mL.
- Those considered “insufficient” (meaning their bodies aren’t at optimal vitamin D capacity) have levels between 21 and 29 ng/mL.
- And those who are “deficient” are defined as having levels at or below 20 ng/mL.
By those criteria, 25% of Americans are insufficient, and 39% are outright deficient. In other words, fully 64% of Americans don’t have enough vitamin D to keep all of their tissues operating at peak capacity. It’s hardly any wonder we are plagued with so many chronic diseases (lifeextension.com)
Why Vitamin D is so important
While humans can make some vitamin D in their bodies, most of us require additional amounts from our diet, the sun, or from supplements to maintain adequate levels. Once vitamin D has been ingested in the diet or produced in the skin, the liver and kidneys convert it to its active form, called 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D, or vitamin D3. Virtually every tissue type in your body has receptors for vitamin D, meaning that they all require vitamin D for adequate functioning. The very presence of specific receptors defines vitamin D as a hormone, rather than a vitamin. It interacts with receptors throughout the body and has a number of different effects. It’s becoming evident that higher doses of vitamin D are required to support its other activities in tissues such as heart muscle, brain cells, and fat tissue, to name just a few. Additionally, vitamin D regulates genes that control cell growth and development, immune function, and metabolic control. Studies have now shown that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of numerous chronic disorders, including type II diabetes, cancer, infections, and cardiovascular, autoimmune, and neurological diseases (lifeextension.com)
In summary of Vitamin Dâ€™s importance, the research shows:
- Vitamin D supplementation reduces cardiovascular disease and disease risk
- Vitamin D prevents diabetes, slows the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes, and decreases fasting blood glucose levels in diabetics
- Vitamin D has been found to reverse neurodegenerative decline (stop Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases)
- Vitamin D blocks cancer (all types of cancer)
- Vitamin D also suppresses the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and MS.
(Specific research references for this information can be found in the lifeextension.com article at the end of this article)
Wow, that is some pretty powerful data! And tell me why you are not getting sunshine when you can or supplementing with Vitamin D when you can’t get sunshine?
What is the solution to this epidemic?
Get more sunshine vitamin into your body! How? Eat it in food, absorb it through your skin, and take a supplement when you need to.
How much vitamin D is enough?
That is person dependent. First, get your levels checked. That determines your starting point and if you are critically low right now, you are going to need a lot more to get your level sufficient as compared to a maintenance dose to keep you above 60. And then get checked again, to see if the amount you were taking was enough. Most people need A LOT more than the RDA recommended amount of 400 iu/day. I find that most people need 5,000-10,000 iu daily to keep their levels in optimal range especially since your body uses it daily and uses more if you are inflamed or have symptoms of the disease. People may require less during the summer months IF they are getting daily sunshine for about 10-15 minutes on most of their body. And remember, sunscreen blocks your absorption of UV-B rays which is the key ingredient to make vitamin D.
Sunshine (UV-B light) on your skin
Our bodies manufacture vitamin D when the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with 7-dehydrocholesterol (cholesterol) present in the skin (who says cholesterol is BAD? You can’t make vitamin D without it). Be aware that UV exposure is unlikely to produce enough vitamin D in darker skin, so African-Americans and dark-skinned Hispanics relying on UV alone are especially at risk for deficiency (skincancer.org). The skin cancer society states that it supports taking 800 iu/daily of vitamin D, but again, that is wildly insufficient to achieve optimal levels of vitamin D to actually prevent cancer, including skin cancer. For a Caucasian or light-skinned individual, daily sunshine in the summer months, mid-day time for just 10-15 minutes without sunscreen, will start the process of your body creating vitamin D. And 15 minutes in the sun, will not cause skin cancer.
Ask to have your level checked. Be sure the lab tests for 25-hydroxy vitamin D which is the best measure, the hormone measure, of vitamin D status.
Start eating more sources of vitamin D and make sure you are absorbing it with good gut health and function. Remember that vitamin D plays a role in calcium absorption into the bones as well. Most foods, unless they are fortified, are poor sources of vitamin D and there are only a small amount of vitamin D-rich foods to choose from.
Best Vitamin D Sources (these are not fortified with Vitamin D like all of your processed food)
Promotes vitamin D synthesis from cholesterol in the skin.
2) Cod liver oil
1 Tbs: 1360 IU
3 ounces: 566 IU
4) Salmon wild sockeye
3 ounces: 447 IU
3 ounces: 400 IU
3 ounces: 228 IU
7) Raw Milk
1 cup: 98 IU
1 oz: 33 IU
1 large: 41 IU
10) Grass-fed Beef liver
3.5 oz: 15 IU
Bronwell, Logan. Life Extension Magazine August 2013. The Overlooked Importance of Vitamin D Receptors. https://www.lifeextension.com