Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Sunshine Vitamin

Are you getting enough Vitamin D? That is a difficult question. Some of us are not getting adequate doses of the sunshine vitamin. According to a Dr. Reinhold Vieth, a vitamin D booster and researcher for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, who says "My prescription for a white person is to lie on your tummy for 10 minutes and then flip over on your back for another 10 minutes when the sun is reasonably high in the sky. That'll do it -- you'll make 10,000 units, your week's worth".
This I found in the Toronto Star newspaper recently.

The article continues:
Vieth is not advocating over-exposure to the sun -- he wears sunscreen if he's at the beach, but he joins many experts in thinking that our fear of the sun may be contributing to vitamin D deficiency -- itself a definite health hazard.
The relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer is complicated: Some research suggests that vitamin D protects skin cancers, but stronger research shows a connection between too much sun. The Vitamin D council notes that skin produces approx. 10,000 IU vitamin D in response to 20 to 30 minutes of summer sun exposure. That's 50 times more than the daily recommendation of 200 IU a day. (If you're over 50 the RDA goes to 400 IU.) Vitamin D advocates, including the Vitamin D Council in the U.S., infer that even 10,000 IU is not enough. In addition to suggesting sunbathing, the council's other controversial recommendations for ensuring that we get adequate levels of vitamin D include using a sun bed (avoiding sunburn) during winter months.

In Vieth's line of work, D does not stand for diet. To get enough vitamin D from food, he says, you'd have to consume about one pound of fish a day! "Even if you drank an extra glass of milk a day, it would only raise your blood vitamin D levels by 2.5 nM/L. Considering you'd want a level higher than 75, it's just absurd how much more milk you'd have to drink".
Are Canadians vitamin D deficient? At latitudes above 40 degrees north, the skin cannot produce adequate Vitamin D. Despite concerns about skin cancer, vitamin D is no only essential to health but may help to prevent a growing list of conditions and diseases. Canadians, especially those in the West, can be sorely deprived of the sunshine vitamin -- esp. during winter months. Research has shown that a lack of vitamin D raises the risk of the following:

  • Fractures
  • Several cancers
  • Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Some cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle weakness or wasting

Young and Old need D

One-third of urban Canadian toddlers don't get enough vitamin D, placing them at higher risk for problems including rickets, Type 1 diabetes, MS and certain types of cancers. Results of research released in May from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children indicated that factors associated with lower levels of vitamin D in kids included lower milk intake, higher BMI and watching TV while snacking.

Meanwhile, researchers in Britain and China have shown an association between low vitamin D and metabolic syndrome (which increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes) in people aged 50 to 70. Seniors' bodies are less efficient at forming vitamin D and their diets may be D-deficient, say the researchers. Spending more time outdoors may be one way they can increase their D levels.

Myself, I'm not a sun-bather any longer, and while I slather myself with sunblock every time I take my dog for a walk, or before gardening, I never realized that I might be blocking out my consumption of proper dosages of Vitamin D.