May 24, 2010
by Ethan Huff
Vitamin D is an amazing nutrient that protect the body from all sorts of diseases and problems. Researchers continually uncover new links between lack of vitamin D and disease, illustrating the fact that it is vital to good health. However recent studies have also found that most people are deficient in vitamin D.
A team of doctors from the McGill University Health Centre in Canada was surprised to find that about 59 percent of people evaluated were deficient in vitamin D and about 25 percent were severely deficient. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, the study is allegedly the first to illustrate a definitive link between vitamin D deficiency and an accumulation of fat in muscle tissue.
“Because it [vitamin D deficiency] is linked to increased body fat, it may affect many different parts of the body. Abnormal levels of vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases, including cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders,” explained Dr. Richard Kremer, lead investigator of the study.
The main reason why people are generally lacking in vitamin D is because people spend much more time indoors than they used to. Especially with computers, people often spend their entire days inside cubicles where they are exposed to little or no sunlight.
Vitamin D is not produced in the body on its own. It is created when skin is exposed to sunlight. Some foods contain vitamin D, but in minimal amounts compared to what can be achieved from sun exposure. Most people also do not consume enough vitamin D-rich food to obtain adequate amounts of it.
The McGill study highlights an important link between vitamin D and obesity that, until now, has been largely ignored. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to decreased muscle and increased fat, which is a condition that is increasingly common in industrialized nations. Though diet also plays a role in obesity, it is striking to see vitamin D playing a role in the condition as well.
Perhaps the reason why vitamin D deficiency is linked to all sorts of serious diseases has more to do with the increase in visceral fat that it causes, which in turn leads to such health problems. This study seems to confirm that notion.
The best way to address vitamin D deficiency is to get more sunlight. But when this is not possible, particularly throughout the winter months when the sun is at a lower angle and the ultraviolet (UV) rays are at a minimum, supplementation with vitamin D is the next best option.
The study itself did not confirm one way or another the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation in reducing fat and increasing muscle, however tests have shown that supplementation does increase blood levels of vitamin D. Many people take vitamin D supplements to alleviate their deficiency and have experience good results.
Currently, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D is between 200 and 400 international units (IU) per day, depending on age. Recent studies are showing that these recommendations are too low to maintain optimal health. Some are suggesting that these guidelines be updated to amounts upwards of 1,000 IU per day, including the Canadian Cancer Society.
On a typical summer day, 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight exposure will result in the skin producing about 40,000 IU of vitamin D. At this point, the mechanism that produces it shuts off in order to prevent the body from making too much.
With these levels in mind, many naturopathic doctors recommend supplementing with up to 10,000 IU a day or more. Many believe it is difficult to take too much vitamin D because the safe upper limits are much higher than previously thought.
Currently, the best form of vitamin D is D3, or cholecalciferol, because it is the precursor to the type created by the body from sunlight exposure. Vitamin D3 can be safely taken at amounts much higher than the RDA guidelines.
Safe tanning beds are another option for achieving optimal vitamin D levels without taking a supplement. Despite recent reports that they are unsafe and cause skin cancer, some tanning beds can be used properly and safely to obtain UV rays when regular sunlight is not an option. These beds use electronic ballasts instead of magnetic ballasts that emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), which can cause cancer and other health issues.
Dr. Mercola, another trusted source of natural health information, has a helpful directory of healthy tanning locations across the country. There are also companies that sell these tanning beds for home use.
If you are unsure about your vitamin D levels and wish to consult with your physician, a simple blood test will determine your levels. Whichever route you choose to take, just be sure to get enough vitamin D. Your body will thank you.