No Sun, No Vitamin D...

               We all know it as the Sunshine Vitamin...

I can't think of anything more fun or healthy then spending the day in the sun. That's why I suppose the 3 places I've chose to live in my life have been Arizona, Southern California, and The Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. I probably have enough stored vitamin D in my fat cells to last a lifetime. For those of you however who have to suffer a rainy sunless climate or months of sunless cold winters increasing your uptake of vitamin D can change your life. The best place to get vitamin D is from your skin being exposed to the UV-B rays that are in normal sunlight. Vitamin D from sunlight acts as a pro-hormone, which converts into 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or vitamin D3 in your body. The photosynthesis of vitamin D, evolved over 750 million years ago, vitamin D played a critical role in the maintenance of a calcified skeleton in vertebrates, while they left their calcium-rich ocean environment for land over an estimated 350 million years ago. Vitamin D can be synthesized only via a photochemical process, so early vertebrates that ventured onto land either had to ingest foods that contained vitamin D or had to be exposed to sunlight to photosynthesize vitamin D in their skin to satisfy their body's vitamin D requirement. In 1923, Dr. Harry Steenbock established that when 7-dehydrocholesterol is irradiated with light, a form of a fat-soluble vitamin is produced known as D3.

At the University of Wisconsin, biochemist Dr.Harry Steenbock demonstrated that irradiation by ultraviolet light increased the vitamin D content of foods and other organic materials. Using $300 of his own money, Steenbock patented his invention. His irradiation technique was used for foods like milk. A vitamin D deficiency is a known cause of rickets. Rickets is a softening of bones in children. By the expiration of his patent in 1945, rickets had been all but eliminated in the US. Vitamin D3 is made in the skin, when it reacts with ultraviolet sun light. The optimal level of absorption occurs daily within the tropics, daily during the spring and summer seasons in temperate regions, and almost never within the arctic circles. Vitamin D deficiency can result in lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone loss (osteoporosis) or bone fracture, because a lack of vitamin D alters mineral metabolism in the body.

Vitamin D is unique also, because it functions as a prohormone. Vitamin D appears to have effects on our immune function. It has been postulated to play a role in spread of influenza. With the lack of vitamin D synthesis in the cold winter regions as one explanation for high rates of influenza infection during the winter. Low levels of vitamin D appear to be a risk factor for tuberculosis also, and historically, it was used as a treatment. Adequate vitamin D may also be associated with healthy hair follicle growth cycles, here are some good  common dietary sources of vitamin D:

  • Catfish, 85 g (3 oz) provides 425 IU 
  • Salmon, 100 g (3.5 oz) provides 360 IU
  • Mackerel, 100 g (3.5 oz), provides 345 IU 
  • Sardines, in oil, 50 g (1.75 oz), provides 250 IU 
  • Tuna, canned in oil, 100 g (3.5 oz), provides 235 IU 
  • A large egg 60 g provides 20 IU  
  • Beef, 100 g (3.5 oz), provides 15 IU 
  • Mollusks, oysters etc. per 1/2 doz. provides 941 IU 
  • Cows milk, 8oz glass provides 241IU 
  • Mushrooms, 1oz. white provides 164IU 
  • Butter, 100g (3.5 oz) provides 60 IU 

The amounts contained in these foods are certainly valuable, but they are not satisfactory for a healthy immune system. Most vegetarians  don't even eat most of these foods. They can opt for fortified foods that are enriched with vitamin D. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota found that overweight people have better success in losing weight when their vitamin D levels are increased. Dr. Shalamar Sibley, the researcher who headed the study, placed 38 obese men and women on a diet program and discovered that those whose vitamin D levels were increased lost up to a  pound more than those who followed the diet plan only. Vitamin D, in conjunction with calcium and sunlight, helps to properly assimilate food and regulate normal blood sugar levels. When there is a lack of calcium, oftentimes due to a vitamin D deficiency, the body increases production of synthase, a fatty acid enzyme that coverts calories into fat. Calcium deficiency can cause synthase production to increase by up to 500%, explaining the correlation between low levels of vitamin D and obesity. Another clinical study conducted in April of 2000 revealed that patients who were bound to wheelchairs because of chronic fatigue and body weakness became mobile after just six weeks of supplementation with 50,000 IU of vitamin D per week. There's surprising new evidence that older women who skimp on foods rich in vitamin D are more likely to develop breast cancer, according to Frank Garland, Ph.D., of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. He claims that out of every 100 women who might get breast cancer, 50 of them can avoid breast cancer by simply getting adequate levels of vitamin D in their body, and that's available free of charge through sensible exposure to natural sunlight.

UV light is divided into three bands, or wavelength ranges, which are referred to as UVA, UVB and UVC. UVB is the primary cause of sunburn caused by overexposure to sunlight. However, UVB sunlight also produces vitamin D in your skin. The amount produced depends on exposure time, time of day, geographic location, season, clouds, pollution, a person's age, the amount of skin surface exposed, and skin color. A common misconception is that occasional exposure of your face and hands to sunlight is sufficient for vitamin D production. Actually, that amount of exposure can provide around 200-400 IU vitamin D during the summer months, but this is greatly insufficient for optimal health. To get enough sunshine vitamin, you need to expose your skin to direct sunlight, without wearing any sunscreen, several times a week. Darker skin needs longer exposure, because melanin contained in dark skin acts as a sun block. Interestingly, if you avoid getting sunburned, yet have regular sun exposure, you'll have a decreased risk of melanoma. Optimizing your sun exposure in this way also reduces your risk of 16 other common cancers. Moderation is the key. You only want to stay out as long it takes for your skin to get slightly pink, (if you're light-skinned) no more. This usually amounts to about a half hour in the mid-day, on average for light skinned people.

After that, if you can't get out of the sun, then use a sunblock or sun block clothing to avoid sunburn. Dark-skinned individuals need considerably more sun to generate adequate vitamin D. This is one of the reasons why breast and prostate cancer rates could be so much higher in dark-complected races, who live in temperate climates. When natural sunlight is not an option, supplementation with vitamin D3 is the next best option. If you're not getting decent sun exposure, you should be taking at least 1,000-2,000IU as a minimum daily dose, but 5,000IU per day is not unreasonable, especially if you live in northern latitudes, are dark-skinned or overweight. The video is a good one today. Good Luck...


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