If you’ve been following your doctor’s advice to the ‘T,’ you’ve probably been really careful when it comes to sun exposure. Using sunscreen and covering yourself up when needed.
After all, isn’t the sun causing major cancers?
Well, too much sun exposure and especially sunburn may be contributing factors to skin cancer, but by protecting yourself too much from the sun you may be depriving yourself of one of the most important vitamins we need… vitamin D.
What’s unique about vitamin D is that it’s very rare in most kind of food. It’s high in some types of fish but only found in low doses in other kinds of diets.
Your body does, however, produce it from sunlight without any diet or supplement consumption…making it the cheapest vitamin on earth.
Using strong sunscreen, as recommended by many doctors, can block 99% of vitamin D production by the body. And this, in addition to reduced outside activities, is causing major health problems all over the world.
According to a study made by University of Aberdeen, up to 65% of women in the UK were vitamin D-deprived over the winter months and an astonishing 50% were even in the summer months.
Whereas it’s understandable that the UK population may be lacking the sunlight to produce enough vitamin D, this doesn’t explain study results published in the March 2010 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism saying that 59% of young women living in sunny California had too little vitamin D in their blood. Overuse of sunscreen does, however, ring a bell.
If Californians are lacking vitamin D, then the rest of us better watch out.
This is a huge issue since vitamin D deprivation has been proven to cause or attribute to pretty much every developing disease on earth. Including:
… and more and more!
A recent study from the University of Kansas, for example, found a strong connection between lack of vitamin D and pretty much all cardiovascular diseases; including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and high cholesterol. Giving people a vitamin D supplement significantly improved those conditions.
Researchers at Tufts University discovered that people with low levels of vitamin D were 57% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several cancers such as colon, breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancers, just to name a few examples.
The sunshine vitamin is also essential for the immune system, especially for producing T cells. It’s therefore safe to assume that missing out on vitamin D will seriously inhibit the body’s chance to fight pretty much all diseases.
Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, and that’s probably one of the main reason why lacking this vitamin seems to make arthritis, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and other inflammation diseases worse.
Finally, one of the main functions of vitamin D is to help various cells, such as muscle and bone cells absorb calcium. Throughout the years people (especially women) have been told to consume enough calcium to prevent bone weakness. This is totally useless if you’re lacking vitamin D. The cells can’t absorb the calcium anyways and it just goes to waste.
One major sign that you are vitamin D deficient is if you experience frequent muscle soreness or fatigue. This means your muscles are not getting enough calcium.
But enough of the problem, what’s the solution?
Obviously, it’s to get enough vitamin D. And it’s not that complicated, especially if you live in a semi-sunny place. Only 20 minutes of 25% skin exposure on a sunny day is enough for most people. Dark-skinned people may, however, need a little more.
If you’re concerned about skin cancer, remember that the recommendation is to manage sun exposure, not to totally eliminate it. Even in places where the UV level is very high, 10-15 minutes, two to three times a day without sunscreen is no problem.
In fact, more than 20 minutes at the time may not result in any more vitamin D. When the skin begins to turn red, it’s naturally protecting itself from the UV rays and won’t absorb the vitamin D as before.
It’s complicated to get enough vitamin D from food. It’s mostly found in fatty fish and egg yolks. Several types of food, especially milk products, are often vitamin D fortified. Fortified milk commonly contains 2.5 ?g (100 IU) vitamin D per cup.
Finally, we have vitamin D supplements. This is only an alternative if you can’t possibly get enough vitamin D from sun exposure. That’s the natural way for the body to absorb this vitamin and probably the most effective. Supplements should always be used as safety net but not to replace natural methods such as diet and sunlight.
Which brings us to the next question…
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
An absolute minimum should be 5 ?g (=200 IU) per day. As you age, you should at least double this amount at fifty and triple it at seventy.
Note that these are minimum numbers. You can safely consume as much as 50 ?g (2,000 IU) without any problems (that’s 20 cups of fortified milk).