Winter is here in the Northeast, and the days of donning our bare skin to the Sun are by the wayside for 6 months. Along with the longer clothing and lack of sun exposure, comes a deficiency in an essential Vitamin. Statistics show that up to 95% of New Englanders are deficient in Vitamin D levels.
While Vitamin D is a vitamin, it is classified as a hormone due to its chemical structure. We obtain vitamin D from our diets or the sun. Foods rich in Vitamin D are cod liver oil, fatty fish, egg yolk, Shitake Mushrooms, fortified dairy and fortified cereals. From the sun we need the UVB rays to penetrate our skin and convert cholesterol to Vitamin D. For most fair skinned people, 20 minutes of full body sun exposure a day would give a nice healthy dose of Vit. D, and partial body exposure would require longer sun exposure for the exposed parts. Darker skinned individuals, are even more Vit. D deficient, and need even longer sun exposure, at least 3-6 times as much. Balancing healthy sun and overexposure is a tricky balance.
If you are unable to obtain enough Vitamin D from the sun or diet, supplementation is easy to do. While the RDA for Vitamin D is 600 IUs, and has gone up in recent years, this is the basic level for survival, and has no regard to thriving. Studies have shown that a maintenance dose of 2000IUs a day is not enough to keep Vitamin D levels at an optimal level. Other studies have shown that consistent daily dosage of 10,000 IUs a day is not toxic. A good dose probably is somewhere in the middle. I personally use NOW Brands Vitamin D 5000IUs. Due to the fat solubility of Vitamin D, you can take a larger dose one day a week (25-50IUs) instead of a daily dosage. Studies have shown ranges of 5000-50000 daily to be safe. Along with this you want to make sure your diet is providing 1000 mg of absorbable calcium and 400 mg of absorbable Magnesium a day.
Why does it matter?
- Vitamin D has a positive effect on body fat mass and insulin sensitivity
- Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones. There are also some studies which link it to decrease osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and decreased fractures in post-menopausal women.
- Vitamin D improves mental health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression and seasonal affective disorder
- Vitamin D improves the immune system. Studies have shown that people with Vit D deficiency are more likely to get upper respiratory infections, especially viral infections like influenza and the common cold.
- Vitamin D is associated with the decreased risk of at least 15 different types of cancers such as colorectal, breast, ovarian, pancreatic, etc,. The reason most likely from the above immune system modulation.
- Vitamin D is found to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- There is anecdotal evidence that it enhances quality of sleep
So, chances are you are deficient. What do you do now?
Optimally, you can ask your doctor for a blood test to test your current vitamin D levels. You can also do an at home test like this one provided by LetsGetChecked which is a relatively cheap and effective way to get your levels. To find out more information on healthy supplementation for better nutrition, please let us know how we can help!