Happy Monday everyone!
I am temporarily blogging here on my old domain (with the .wordpress.com), because I’m working on moving over to self-hosted. I am hoping to be done in the next couple of days, but we will see. To sum up my emotions regarding this transition, I go from frustrated to excited very quickly. I am trusting it will all be worth it!
Today I thought I’d share a little bit about vitamin D, the micronutrient often called the “sunshine vitamin”.
After hearing one of my professors go on for four semester about how everyone should have their vitamin D levels checked, I finally went to the student health center to have the test done, which was a blood draw that measured my 1,25(OH)₂D levels.
Well, what do you know? Along with 40% of the world’s population, I am deficient. As a healthy eater, I thought maybe my chances would be better, but it turns out I’m doing any better. For reference, sufficient levels are considered 40-80 ng/mL and mine was 19 ng/mL. My practitioner put me on a supplementation regimen to hopefully correct the deficiency (50,000 IUs once weekly for 12 weeks following 2,000 IUs daily).
So what’s the deal with vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is taken in through sun exposure, a few foods, and dietary supplements. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is difficult to get through the diet.
For adults ages 19-70, 600 IUs (or 15 micrograms) are recommended daily, though some researchers believe that number is a lot higher. One cup of fortified milk provides 2.5 micrograms and an egg yolk provides 0.9 micrograms. You may be able to reach the goal if you are a fish lover- 3 ounces of canned pink salmon has about 11 micrograms and 3 ounces of canned sardines have about 4 micrograms. Nonetheless, chances are you will have difficulty eating enough of these items throughout the week to reach your goal. If you are vegan, it’s basically impossible to get enough through foods.
But what about the sun? The sun has the potential to provide all your vitamin D requirements, as it has for the history of mankind. “It has been estimated that up to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure on the hands, arms, and face around 12 pm throughout the year at 25 degrees latitude (Miami, FL) and during the spring, summer, and fall at 42 degrees (Boston, MA) latitude may provide a light-skinned individual with 1,000 IU of vitamin D” (source).
The problem is that most of us don’t get enough sun. I know I don’t. I’m usually inside at work or in class when the sun is out, especially during the winter months. Additionally, for older adults and individuals with darker skin, it is more difficult to synthesize enough vitamin D through the sunlight. Application of sunscreen markedly reduces the amount of vitamin D synthesized as well. The further north you are the less likely the UVB light will be strong enough to provide the needed amount of vitamin D. For many people going outside for 15 minutes and then going back and applying sunscreen may seem too much like a hassle. Do you think you get enough sun?
What is vitamin D’s role in the body anyways?
-vitamin D plays a role bone mineralization through the regulation of calcium and phosphorus. Long-term vitamin D deficiency could lead to brittle or soft bones. The condition of soft bones in children is known as “rickets” and in adults “osteomalacia.”
-vitamin D regulates cell differentiation and growth. There have been some studies that have linked low vitamin D status/intake and/or low sun exposure to breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
-emerging research shows a link between vitamin D status and risk for autoimmune diseases.
(Vitamin D is currently a huge area of research. It’s been linked to more things than I’ve mentioned here.)
Deficiency is most usually asymptomatic. Some people experience muscle soreness or fatigue. (Here’s hoping I experience less aches and pains during running once I’m sufficient!) The effects of deficiency will likely not show up until later when symptoms of osteoporosis or osteomalacia begin to manifest.
With all that said, I am really glad I made the investment to have my levels checked, so I can hopefully prevent any serious bone damage from occurring. Even though I don’t take any nutritional supplements, it’s clear now that vitamin D should be the exception. The vitamin D deficiency epidemic isn’t well known, even though it effects over 40% of the population.
If you are able, I suggest getting your levels tested. It may not be an issue now, but long-term deficiency has great consequences.