Vitamin D has been in the news a lot lately. It’s not surprising, considering that vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is now considered a global public health challenge, affecting an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. According to new research, fully 75% of American teens and adults may have insufficient levels of vitamin D, a dramatic increase from about 40% in the last decade or so. Since the body can manufacture vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight, what’s causing the alarmingly high rates of deficiency in the general population?
For one thing, there are few food sources that contain naturally occurring vitamin D. Known dietary sources include wild salmon, tuna and mackerel, beef liver, mushrooms and fortified foods such as cereal, juice or dairy products. Throughout evolution, humans have depended on sunlight, rather than foods, to meet their vitamin D requirement. In addition, many of us don’t eat fish or drink milk and, as far as serving beef liver with mushrooms for dinner, well, good luck with that.
Spending too much time indoors, especially in winter, means little exposure to sunlight and without sunlight, our skin cannot produce the “sunshine” vitamin. Another very good reason for deficiency is the high use of sunscreens, which can block the skin’s vitamin D production by 99%, even with an SPF as low as 15. The recommendation to avoid all sun exposure, unless slathered with copious amounts of high SPF sunscreen or covering up from head to toe, has resulted in a marked increase in the risk of vitamin D deficiency. The body is designed to produce large amounts of natural vitamin D when lots of bare skin, such as the back or torso, is regularly exposed to sensible amounts of sunlight, ideally when the sun is high in the sky.
Sensible sun exposure varies and can mean as little as 5 – 15 minutes several times each week for a fair skinned person to more than an hour for a darker skinned person. Finding the right amount of exposure time is problematic, as you don’t want to burn, which can increase the risk of developing skin cancers. Sensible, frequent sun exposure is healthy, overexposure is not. After a bit of exposure, applying sunscreen, covering up and getting into the shade are considered safe ways to protect your skin from harmful rays.
One good rule of thumb for getting the most benefit from sun exposure to is pay attention to your shadow. If your shadow is longer than you are tall, as it is most of winter, you are not making much vitamin D. If your shadow is shorter, like it is in summer in the middle of the day, more vitamin D is being produced. The farther you live from the equator, the harder it is to produce vitamin D from sunlight, especially during winter. Aging, obesity, certain medications and health conditions, such as Crohn’s and celiac disease, are additional causes of vitamin D deficiencies.
Why all the fuss about deficiency? The most well-known consequences of deficiency are rickets in children and osteomalacia or osteoporosis in adults. Vitamin D promotes calcium and phosphorus absorption, important in the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Ongoing research has shown that vitamin D has many roles to play in human health. Vitamin D facilitates normal immune function and improves resistance against certain diseases. Mounting evidence links low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, dementia, depression, increased blood pressure, muscle weakness, bone pain and breast, colon, prostate, ovarian and other cancers.
To recap, we can get our vitamin D in three different ways — from sun exposure, dietary sources and by supplementing. Getting the right amounts of vitamin D seems tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. As you can’t really depend on getting adequate amounts from foods or on getting just the right amount of sun exposure, many people choose to safely increase their vitamin D intake by supplementing. If your goal is to lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of diabetes, lower your risks of heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disease, inhibit cancer cell growth and improve your overall health, don’t neglect your vitamin D levels.
Some medical organizations, such as The American Academy of Dermatology recommend against getting any sun exposure at all. If you have concerns about sun exposure or have a history of skin cancer, supplementing with vitamin D3 is a very effective way to get the vital amounts of vitamin D your body needs for good health. Supplementation guidelines vary. In general, a therapeutic range for children one year and older is 600 – 1,000 IUs daily and adults 1,500 – 2,000 IUs. Depending upon your own personal health status, your healthcare provider can recommend optimal amounts for you. Consider taking vitamin K2 along with vitamin D3, as these two nutrients work synergistically to strengthen your bones and improve your health.
If you are pregnant, nursing or taking blood thinning medications, please consult your healthcare provider before supplementing with vitamins D3 and K2. Should you have any questions about vitamin D3 supplementation, please call or email Professional Supplement Center.
Liquid Vitamin D3 with K2 by Ortho Molecular – This tasteless, odorless natural liquid formula provides vitamin D3 and K2 in a base of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs allow for superior absorption of the bone, immune and cardiac supporting nutrients.
Vitamin D3 2000 IU by Vital Nutrients – For those who prefer tablet form, this product supplies 2000 IU per dose and promotes bone health, calcium absorption and the maintenance of healthy serum calcium levels.
Bio-D-Mulsion by Biotics Research – This highly absorbable liquid formula supplies 400 IU of vitamin D per drop. Necessary for musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and immune health, this popular formula works well for those with malabsorption issues. Gluten free.
Vitamin D/K2 Liquid by Thorne Research – Naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols and in combination with MCT oil, this easy to take liquid formula provides powerful support for normal cell formation, healthy bones, immunity and maintenance of the cardiovascular system. Gluten, soy and dairy free. No additional ingredients.
Vitamin D deficiency soars in the U.S. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/vitamin-d-deficiency-united-states/
How do I get the vitamin D my body needs? https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/
Vitamin D Deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/4/1080S.full#sec-3