How to prevent a vitamin D deficiency
Numerous studies and the epidemiological trends over recent years support the theory that people need significantly more vitamin D than has been commonly accepted. A University of Toronto study involving 796 women between the ages of 18 and 35 showed that the generally recommended amounts of vitamin D for women are too low to offer any benefit. According to Reinhold Vieth and his colleagues, any amount of daily vitamin D intake under 800 IU wasn’t enough to prevent a vitamin D deficiency.
Despite this information and more, the US Food and Nutrition board for osteoporosis-related matters still recommends only 400 IU per day for women under the age of 50.
The evidence for increased Vitamin D continues to grow, but, for some reason, it also continues to be ignored. You already know the important role it plays in building and maintaining a strong immune system, and vitamin D levels also are linked to more than just proper bone growth and strength. Some of the most common health ailments today can be directly linked to inadequate vitamin D levels.
Heart Disease and Diabetes
Heart disease continues to reign as the number-one killer in this country. Although dozens of factors are involved in developing heart disease, excess sugar consumption and the inability to regulate blood sugar levels properly are undoubtedly two of the major contributing factors. Studies have now shown that low vitamin D levels decrease insulin levels and increase insulin resistance, both of which are associated with diabetes and subsequent cardiovascular problems.
I’ve also reported how the incidence of diabetes in children has been skyrocketing over the last couple of decades. Lower vitamin D levels have now been found to be one of the contributing factors.
Numerous studies have found a direct association between low vitamin D levels and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, and the skin.
Studies have now shown that a lower-than-optimal level of vitamin D contributes to degenerative arthritis (the “wear and tear” form of arthritis) in the hip and the knee.
Since you know adequate levels of vitamin D are also essential for proper immune system response, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that vitamin D deficiencies are also associated with such diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and even multiple sclerosis.
Sunlight exposure is a necessary requirement for vitamin D production in the body, and is also necessary for proper mood health. However, with the fear of skin cancer and wrinkling, tanning or even getting sun exposure has become taboo. The result is that depression is becoming more and more commonplace.
The problem is that, even under normal circumstances, it would be difficult for many people to get enough sun exposure to avoid depression in most of the Northern and Northeastern US cities. Only during a few summer months are there enough UV-B rays reaching those areas to allow for proper vitamin D production. (The three main forms of UV, or ultraviolet, radiation from the sun are UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-B rays are the ones we need to produce vitamin D naturally, but they are also the ones that can produce sunburn and tanning.)
Even when UV-B rays are adequate, most people now either slather on the sunscreen or avoid the sun altogether. Any sunscreen with a protective factor of 8 or more will block almost all of the UV-B rays from reaching the skin.
The ironic thing about all of this is that the incidence of skin cancer has more to do with consuming the wrong fats (too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s) than it does with exposure to the sun. Until the general public understands this fact, skin cancer problems will continue to increase, which will in turn cause even more fear of sunlight exposure and more depression. This whole situation has gotten way out of control. Because of the fats we’re now eating and our fear of sunlight, it’s becoming necessary to supplement our diets with vitamin D. But in the natural scheme of things, our bodies can manufacture enough vitamin D when given regular exposure to sunlight.
Decreased vitamin D levels result in less production and secretion of the hormone leptin. Leptin is one of the primary hormones involved in fat storage and weight loss. Millions of dollars are now being spent on trying to duplicate these effects by artificially increasing levels of leptin in the body or turning it into a weight-loss drug. The simple answer, of course, is to ensure you’re producing and/or receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D.
On a very interesting, related note, researchers appear to have found a connection between bulimic dieting behavior, binge-eating, and light. Individuals with these characteristics apparently prefer to eat in dim or more subdued light compared to individuals without such problems.
Obviously, this information is still being researched and analyzed, but, based on what we know about vitamin D and leptin levels, it certainly may be more than just a simple coincidence. If you’re concerned about losing weight or have the above problems, there would certainly be no harm in opening the shades and turning up the lights at mealtime. The connection between light, our body’s biological clock (or circadian rhythm), and our health is one that has always been a big interest of mine. Our relationship with light may seem primitive, but it is one of our most basic connections to our environment. Vitamin D is only one of the links in this connection. The essential fatty acids (EFAs) from fish oils, flax, and other grains, along with our ability to assimilate EFAs from our diet, provide another link.
You Don’t Need the Government’s Permission to Increase Your Vitamin D
When you look at the increasing incidence of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, et cetera, it becomes obvious that most government agencies and health organizations are far too slow in changing or modifying their recommendations. I think much of the problem stems from bureaucracy and, oftentimes, politics.
For example, there’s now a huge market for drugs to treat osteoporosis, and I seriously doubt that anyone developing or selling these drugs would really want the problem to be solved through diet. Even though osteoporosis and associated hip fractures have become a major problem in this country, the regulating authorities continue to recommend a daily dose of 400 IU of vitamin D. They are way behind the times. Just don’t let your supplement be behind the times. Make sure you’re getting 2,000 to 5,000 IU a day. Don’t get worried about that much causing an overdose. Although various foods do contain vitamin D, unless you’re taking something like cod-liver oil, you won’t be getting much vitamin D. Milk is fortified with 10 micrograms per quart, which works out to about 400 IU per quart or 100 IU per each eight-ounce glass.
Make a point to get outside regularly and enjoy the sunshine, without the sunscreen. There’s no need to overdo it and get sunburned. Once your skin turns red, vitamin D production will stop anyway. Twenty minutes a day is all someone with fair skin needs to get enough vitamin D during the summertime. If your skin is darker, you’ll need more sunlight exposure to produce the same amount of vitamin D. And always keep in mind that, in addition to helping produce vitamin D, sunlight exposure can help regulate your biological clock, fight depression, and possibly even help you to control your appetite and lose weight. As time goes on, we’ll undoubtedly learn dozens more reasons why people weren’t made to live underground, in a cave, or in a dark house or office.