After years of learning to slip, slop, slap, and wrap (apply sunscreen) it seems we are so covered up that we are not getting enough vitamin D. Our bodies evolved to make the vitamin from exposure to the sun, yet our modern lifestyles and skin cancer prevention may be blocking the beneficial production of vitamin D.
What are the benefits of vitamin D?
It is known that the vitamin promotes calcium absorption from the gut. This helps to build strong bones and for our muscles to function properly.
Research is showing evidence that low levels of D are linked with breast, prostate, and colon cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, immunity to infection, cognitive function, and Parkinson’s disease, and more. Research is ongoing, and many experts say there is not enough evidence to recommend vitamin D as a prevention to any of these as yet. As well, the correct supplement dosage is still under debate.
Studies of various populations have shown that the vitamin may be associated with reduced risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer. Vitamin D regulates tumor suppressing proteins and limits blood vessel formation to tumors. Cells have vitamin D receptors, when the vitamin connects to the receptor it affects the cell’s gene activity. This action may stop cells over-multiplying and increasing too much.
High blood pressure, heart disease & diabetes
Studies have associated low levels of D with high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Studies have shown people with low levels of D to be more likely to get upper respiratory infections and viral infections. D may help to activate and moderate the immune system. Research suggests that it assists in the production of anti-viral proteins and has an anti-inflammatory effect.
How much to take?
The Institute of Medicine recommend 15 micrograms per day, yet some researchers into the vitamin’s effects say that amount is not enough and suggest it should be two or three times more. If you are not sure if you have enough get your blood levels checked. The standard range for blood levels is 30 – 100 ng/mL
If you take a calcium supplement, make sure it comes with added vitamin D.
How much sunshine to get? A suggestion is 10-15 minutes of sunshine exposure several days per week.
What other ways can we get vitamin D?
- Milk is fortified with vitamin D, and some brands of yogurt. Cheese contains small amounts of vitamin D.
- Dried shitake mushrooms.
- Egg yolks.
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and sardines canned in oil.