Vitamin D: Vitamin, Sunshine or Hormone?
You are diligent with taking care of your health but at your yearly physical the doctor tells you your vitamin D is low, and you need to add a supplement.
Wait a minute! I am often outside in the sun so WHY do I need a supplement? Is it just another way for the supplement industry to make money?
What are the facts? Why is having an optimal vitamin D levels important to your health and happiness?
Here are the facts:
Food contains small amounts of vitamin D compared to our needs. A cup of milk contains 100 IU, a 5-ounce serving of wild salmon 431 IU, 5 raw mushrooms 68 IU, and an egg 25 IU.
Since needs vary from 1000 to 5000 IU per day these amounts barely scrap the barrel with respect to requirements.
With food containing so little vitamin D, the other two options are sunshine and supplements.
- Two factors that affect vitamin D absorption from the sun are skin pigmentation and latitude in proximity to the equator. The latitude of most of the US has insufficient UVB to penetrate the atmosphere and trigger skin production of vitamin D
- One would have to be in the sun quite often to get adequate vitamin D and since we all wear sunscreen and need to be cautious of skin cancer, optimal levels from direct sun can rarely be achieved
So we are left with taking supplements. Why is vitamin D so essential to our health?
- For starters, every cell in the body has a Vitamin D receptor and it is thought about 2000 genes are regulated by Vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin and has more important functions than scientists ever imagined
- Vitamin D is important for bone health, and low levels can lead to low bone calcium storage, which can increase the risk of fractures
- Vitamin D facilitates normal immune function, as clearly outlined by Dr. Holick who is considered and expert in vitamin D. Dr. Holick states vitamin D benefits cellular health to prevent many forms of cancer, organ health to prevent heart disease, diabetes and stroke, inflammatory processes, and autoimmune, brain, and mood-related health; in fact, some researchers are now calling Vitamin D the antibiotic vitamin since it boosts protection in the white blood cells of antimicrobial compounds that defends the body against germs, something essential during the epidemic of COVID19
- Vitamin D is essential to lose fat and boost hormone levels that regulate metabolism. Your fat cells contain vitamin D receptors and play an active role in helping the brain know when to stop eating. When your food intake matches your energy requirements, your fat cells secrete the hormone leptin that tells you to stop eating. A lack of vitamin D interferes with this appetite-suppressing effect
- If your weight is normal a low serum vitamin D can easily be restored with supplements. However, if you are overweight your body has difficulty accessing the vitamin D since it is locked up in your adipose tissue. Therefore you may need double to triple the amount of vitamin D to allow your body to utilize it and restore levels to normal
This is one vitamin not to ignore. Have your vitamin D levels checked at least yearly or even biannually since it could mean the difference between losing weight or not, preventing diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis…or getting sick with a cold, flu or COVID19.
Many of my clients ask “can I just take a pill?” This is one time the answer is definitely YES!
This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart and RD Intern Antonella Rica