Hurrah! – It’s Tuesday morning and the sun is officially shining here, radiantly! And whilst vitamin D may not be the first thing on your mind when the sun comes out to play, I would suggest that perhaps it should be…
You may well have heard a lot of talk in the press recently about vitamin D and be wondering what it’s all about? The unfortunate truth is that we now know that vitamin D deficiency has reached pandemic proportions, and that’s having a serious impact on our health.
“Vitamin D deficiency is now recognised as a pandemic, with more than half of the world’s population currently at risk1”
Vitamin D is also fast becoming known as a ‘super-nutrient’. We now know that it’s not just an important nutrient for healthy bones, research is now finding that deficiency of this fat-soluble vitamin can be linked to a wide range of health problems, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cognitive impairment and problems with auto-immunity such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and Type 1 diabetes.
What many people don’t realise though, is that very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified milk, egg yolks and oily fish are the best sources, but you certainly cannot rely on food to provide you with optimal amounts of vitamin D on a daily basis. In fact, the major source (80 – 100%) of vitamin D is actually sunshine! Vitamin D is primarily manufactured in the skin on contact with sunshine.
So why in this modern age are we experiencing such epidemic proportions of vitamin D deficiency? The simple answer is that we simply aren’t getting as much sun as we used to. Millions of years ago, our ancestors lived naked in the sun, spending most of the day working and travelling outside. Over the years, we have put on clothes and started working inside, travelling in cars and living in cities where buildings block the sun. In addition to this, in more recent years, skin cancer scares have further minimised sun exposure for all ages, especially for children. The recommended liberal use of high factor sunscreen has had additional negative impacts on the skin’s natural vitamin D production process. Before the sun scare, 90% of human vitamin D stores came from skin production not dietary sources. When you look at how our lifestyles have evolved to cut out the sun’s contact with our skin, it is easy to see why we now have such high levels of vitamin D deficiency.
So how much vitamin D do you need….
- Recent medical research indicates that human daily requirements of vitamin D may be up to 10 x more than what is currently recommended.
- The current daily recommendation for vitamin D is 200 IU.
- If you consider that the skin will naturally produce approximately 10,000 IU vitamin D in response to 20 – 30 minutes summer sun exposure, you can easily see how current daily recommendations of a worryingly low 200 IU are seriously brought into question by health experts.
- Based on information from the most current medical literature, highly respected scientist Dr Joseph Pizzorno recommends that an average daily maintenance dose of 5000 IU vitamin D is more realistic to promote optimal vitamin D levels1,2.
- Yet scientists also agree that there is a great deal of individual variation and with vitamin D it is impossible to recommend a ‘one size fits all’ daily dosage level.
- The correct level of vitamin D is the one which results in bringing blood levels of vitamin D into an optimal range; it is essential therefore that you seek advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner for advice on the best dose for your individual requirements.
What’s the best way of increasing vitamin D intake? Since vitamin D isn’t naturally present in many foods, it isn’t possible to achieve optimal vitamin D intake from food sources alone. The risk of skin cancer from excessive sunlight or sun-bed exposure opens an important debate over spending more time in the sun to increase vitamin D levels. Therefore, most experts now agree that supplementation is currently the safest and most effective method of achieving optimal vitamin D status. Supplements should contain vitamin D in the form of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), since this is the form naturally produced by the skin upon exposure to sunlight and research has shown this is the most efficient form at increasing vitamin D levels3.
How do I know if I’m deficient? The best way to find out if you’re deficient is by asking your GP to check your levels. Alternatively, there’s a simple, non-invasive test you can request privately which will identify deficiency too.
For more information on vitamin D deficiency, testing and supplementation, please feel free to get in touch and I will be happy to help.
- Pizzorno J. Integrative Medicine Vol. 9 No. 1 Feb/Mar 2010 ‘What have we learned about vitamin D dosing?’
- Hall, Kimlin, Aronov et al. Journal of Nutrition Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/jn.109.115253 ‘Vitamin D intake needed to maintain target serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations in participants with low sun exposure and dark skin pigmentation is substantially higher than current recommendations’
- Trang HM, Cole DEC, Rubin et al. (1998) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, 854-858 ‘Evidence that vitamin D3 increases serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D more efficienctly than does vitamin D2’.