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Vitamin D and Sunshine

July 6, 2012, 1:30 pm

Is our Fear of Skin Cancer Making Us Deficient in Vitamin D?

Should I or shouldn’t I go out in the sun?  Should I or shouldn’t I take a vitamin D supplement?  How much should I take? 

First off, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus.

Vitamin D affects a host of wellness issues including: energy level, cancer prevention, fighting depression, help with weight loss, boosting the immune system, keeping bones and teeth strong, amongh others.

Humans get vitamin D in several ways, through sunlight or diet, primarily from salmon, mackerel, egg yolks and some mushrooms, or vitamin D supplementation. Most of us do not get enough vitamin D through diet alone, as you would have to eat salmon or mackerel every day.  Some of our foods are also fortified with vitamin D, like milk and cereals, but again, it is very difficult to get enough vitamin D through these sources.

There is growing controversy about getting vitamin D from sunlight, as the big scare out there is everyone needs to avoid midday sunlight and slather on the sunscreen lest they risk getting skin cancer. I have read some new studies that show this is not necessarily true.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Sun exposure is the best way to get it; ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin.  In the northern latitudes, north of Atlanta, Georgia, the sun is at too low of an angle for half the year to provide enough UV radiation. Most people need to supplement with vitamin D, especially seniors, as the ability to synthesize vitamin D in the skin declines with age.”  Dr. Weil also states, “Don’t be concerned that 2,000 IU will give you too much, with exposure to sunlight in the summer, the body can generate between 10,000 and 20,000 IU of vitamin D per hour with no ill effects.  In addition, no adverse effects have been seen with supplemental vitamin D intakes of up to 10,000 IU daily.”

Dr. Mercola is also a big proponent of getting your vitamin D from the sun or (gasp) a tanning bed. You can check out studies that have been done in regards to cancer and tanning beds on his website, Mercola.com. Read “Slash your Risk of Cancer by Breaking this Cardinal Rule.”

What should you do, supplement or go out in the sun?  I recommend both, in moderation. It only takes 10 - 15 minutes a day, without sunscreen in the midday (wearing shorts and a tank top) to get enough vitamin D from the sun to adequately supply your daily needs. If you are not able to get out in the summer sun, then you should look at taking a vitamin D3 supplement. I recommend taking anywhere from 1,000 IU to 10,000 IU depending on what your vitamin D level is in your body. You can get tested at your doctor’s office, or you can do it yourself with a home test kit. The Vitamin D Council has home test kits available.

I really like what Robyn Lucas, an epidemiologist at the Australian National University had to say after leading a vitamin D study, published in the February journal of Epidemiology.  Her findings state:  “Far more lives are lost to diseases caused by a lack of sunlight than to those caused by too much.”

by Kathy Dittenbir, Wellness Department Manager

Posted by Kathy Dittenbir, Wellness Department Manager at 1:30 pm
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