Over the last 40 years, there’s been a worldwide phenomenon of people’s’ vitamin D levels lowering and lowering. In the U.S., 75% of teens and adults are reported to be vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D is better known as the “sunshine vitamin”, since most of the human body’s source of vitamin D comes from the sun’s UVB rays.
This shouldn’t be too shocking. Think about it. Look at all the changes in societal norms the last 40 years:
- Air conditioning keeps people indoors.
- With TVs, video games, and the internet, why bother go outside.
- Less farming and manual labor equals more indoor jobs.
- People are gravitating towards cities.
- Fear of skin cancer.
Even some of the hottest, most remote and central regions of the Earth (Saudi Arabia and Asiatic countries) have people with low vitamin D levels.
So why is this the case and what can YOU do to prevent this from happening to you?
VITAMIN D IN THE HUMAN BODY
There are two forms of vitamin D, vitamin D2 and D3. Humans cannot make use of vitamin D2, so from here on out, when I use the phrase “vitamin D”, I’m referring to vitamin D3.
The “sunlight vitamin” is a nutrient we can eat, but mainly a hormone our body chemically makes from direct exposure to sunlight. It’s easily understandable why we are so deficient, either we cover our bodies, use UVB blocking lens/screens, or simply stay inside.
But what does vitamin D do for us humans?
- without vitamin D, only 10-15% of dietary calcium and about 60% of phosphorus can be absorbed.
- Vitamin D enhances calcium and phosphorus absorption by 30-40% and 80% respectively.
- Low vitamin D levels are linked with an increased risk of bone fractures in older adults.
- Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a 60% increase in heart disease.
- Vitamin D is now recognized as a hormone with significant importance in cell growth/regrowth and anti-inflammatory effects.
- Studies SUGGESTED a link between low levels of vitamin D and an increase risk of cancer, particularly colon cancer.
- However, nothing has been definitive in regard to cancer research.
Other effects of low vitamin D levels include obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases.
WHO’S AT RISK?
Some people are more at risk than others, depending on age, geographical location, and other factors.
Most breastfed infants are vitamin D deficient and at risk. If the mother of a child is vitamin D deficient, so will her breastfed child. Typically, vitamin D deficient mothers have vitamin D deficient milk.
Elderly folks are at extreme risk of vitamin D deficiency. Older people’s skin has trouble synthesizing vitamin D. Most older people need to spend a good amount of time exposed to direct sunlight or use supplementation to achieve healthy vitamin D levels. Unfortunately, most elderly tend to spend more time indoors and have inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals.
The largest group of people at risk are people who have a shortage of UVB rays reaching their skin. People at higher altitudes or further away from the equator are at risk of being vitamin D deficient since the amount of UVB rays are limited there. Homebodies and people with indoor occupations are bound to be vitamin D deficient. Even places near the equator with the most access to UVB rays have people with low levels of vitamin D. Clothing that covers the body for religious reasons in the Middle East, Asia, and India increase their risk of vitamin D deficiency, regardless of how close they are to the equator.
Another group of people at risk is anyone with a BMI greater than 30. A greater than 30 BMI is technically obese and may require larger doses of vitamin D to achieve healthy vitamin D levels.
HOW MUCH VITAMIN D DO I NEED?
Obtaining vitamin D through food and nutrition alone is tough.
The majority of vitamin D intake should come from the sun’s UVB rays, which triggers synthesis of vitamin D in the human body. So, sitting in a car with dark tent, or wearing a high SPF sunscreen does NO good for vitamin D levels.
You should go outside more (most optimal solution), but not everyone has the time to do this. This is where supplementation of vitamin D is critical. Vitamin D capsules, chewable tablets, liquids, and drops are efficient ways to maximize your vitamin D levels!
Traditional multivitamins contain about 400 IU/d of vitamin D, but some new multivitamins now contain up to 800-1,000 IUs of vitamin D.
The Institute of Medicine recommended tripling vitamin D intake to 600 IU/d for adults and children. They also say the upper limit is between 2,000-4,000 IU/d and acknowledge a daily intake of 4,000 IUs has NO HARM.
So, what do I do? Currently, I take 2,000 IUs of vitamin D daily and try to go outside as much as possible, mainly on the weekends. I don’t necessarily feel the effects, but I know it can’t hurt, especially since I’m indoors most of the time for work.
IM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL, but I recommend trying to increase your vitamin D levels for about one month and see how you feel! Go outside and add a vitamin D supplement into your daily routine. You might save your future self.
Hope you learned something from this week’s post! If you’ve missed last week’s post on the traditional 401(K), click here! As always, don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe.
Book of the Month: “Discrimination and Disparities” by Thomas Sowell