Daily Sunshine Combats Vitamin D Deficiency
Apr 01, 2011 01:04AM
● By Dr. Margaret C. Rank
For years nutritional scientists have known that Vitamin D is essential to calcium absorption, bone development, remodeling, and maintenance but only recently has the "sunshine vitamin" been recognized to have far more effects than previously realized.
D3 is produced in human skin by the action of sunlight. D3 can also be obtained from dietary supplementation. It is then converted by the liver and kidney to the active 1,25 dihydroxy Vitamin D. Vitamin D, also called cacitriol.
To produce sufficient D3 from sunlight likely requires 20 minutes of midday sun at least 2 to 3 times weekly. Here in Florida, lunch outdoors or a walk at lunch time is an easy way to get free Vitamin D without supplementation. Darker skinned people require a bit more time in the sun than lighter skinned people, since skin pigmentation screens sunlight and reduces vitamin D production.
Dermatologists have been warning the general population to avoid the sun completely either by staying indoors or always using sunscreen. However, and seemingly paradoxically, the incidence of melanoma, the most feared form of skin cancer, more often occurs on those parts of the body protected from sunlight. In fact, recent research indicates that sunlight and Vitamin D actually contribute to the prevention of melanoma partially through its function in programmed cell death (apoptosis). It seems prudent to take in a bit of "safe sun" on a regular basis. Through gene activation and its effects on the immune system, Vitamin D has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Of course, basting and cooking are still discouraged to prevent solar skin damage and the other main forms of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell cancers.
Recent studies also indicate that low vitamin D levels are found in patients diagnosed with multiple varieties of cancer, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, influenza, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease and several other clinical illnesses.
Furthermore, there is an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency. Although various foodstuffs have been fortified with Vitamin D when frank deficiencies such as osteomalacia and rickets were recognized, the levels have been far lower than needed to bring levels up to even what has been considered normal. A recent study in California identified Vitamin D deficiency in over 60% of a young female population. Calcium with D supplementation is available but until recently, provided far less than what is needed for those who do not have sufficient sunlight exposure. Optimal supplement levels for those who do not get adequate sun exposure is yet to be determined but is certainly much higher than governmental recommendations.
Dr. Margaret C. Rank is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. In her Melbourne practice, she blends Traditional and Holistic Medicine using Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Saliva Hormone Testing and Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement. For more information contact Dr. Rank at 321-984-1291.