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March 5, 2011

Let the sunshine in. A focus on vitamin D

We’ve been told for years to avoid the sunlight and slather on chemical sunscreens to avoid the “damaging effects of UV radiation”. Now however, the viewpoint is beginning to change. Recent research shows that the suns rays actually do more good than harm.

 

Recent studies underly the importance of vitamin D for optimum health but did you know that vitamin D deficiency has reached epidemic proportions across the world? Forget swine ‘flu, this epidemic, in comparison, makes H1N1 look like a case of the sniffles.

The sunshine nutrient

Vitamin D starts life in your body as cholesterol in the skin, which on contact with the sun’s rays, gets converted to cholecalciferol, commonly known as vitamin D3.  Your body has the ability to produce 10,000IU of it after 20-30 minutes of being exposed to the sun.

So, why is there such a widespread Vitamin D deficiency?

Unlike us, our ancestors lived naked in the sun, spending most of the day working and travelling outside, we however cover our skin with clothes and spend most of the day inside, travelling in cars and living in urban areas where buildings block out the sunlight.

Scared of the sun

Our sun exposure has been reduced even further, especially for children, because of skin cancer scares. Using high factor sunscreen blocks the production of natural vitamin D in the skin.  Before we became so scared of the sun 90% of our vitamin D came from skin production, not dietary sources.

Some facts about vitamin D deficiency:

  • The majority of the western population is deficient in vitamin D.
  • It can easily be corrected with vitamin D supplementation or through sensible sun exposure. Sunscreen products block the natural skin production of vitamin D.
  • It promotes cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, kidney disease, depression, obesity, immune system challenges and heart disease among many other health problems.
  • Degenerative diseases across the world could be greatly reduced through correcting this deficiency.  This would save millions of dollars in health care costs. (Yet would be a huge loss of profit to the pharmaceutical and medical industries).
  • Vitamin D supplementation is not expensive and is extremely safe even at doses higher than the recommended daily allowance (which is actually extremely low). A high dose is considered between 4000 – 8000 IU per day, however this isn’t so high, considering that the skin can make up to 10,000IU from 20-30 minutes in the sun.
  • Vitamin D helps activate the immune system making it more effective in defending against viruses. Lack of vitamin D will increase the body’s chances of contracting H1N1 and winter ‘flu. Lack of sunlight in the wintertime reduces vitamin D even further, at a time when the body needs it most.

Preferable supplements

People living in colder climates and those with health problems may choose to supplement and should therefore choose vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) preferably in liquid form at around 3000-5000IU per day.

From sunshine not food

Not many foods naturally contain vitamin D. Egg yolks, oily fish and fortified milk are the best sources, but we cannot rely on these foods to provide us with our vitamin D.

80 – 100% of vitamin D that our bodies need is from our skin’s contact with the sunshine! The skin  will stop producing vitamin D when the levels in the body get high enough, so you cannot get too much vitamin D from the sunshine. In fact, the body produces enough vitamin D in only a fraction of the time it takes the skin to burn.

Everybody loves the sunshine

A perfect excuse to connect with nature, relax and get some healthy exercise at the same time. Even better still, kick off your shoes and walk barefoot and you’ll not only benefit from the sun’s rays, but also the negative ions naturally generated by your skin touching the earth. So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself outside with bare arms and legs in the morning or late afternoon sunshine today.

 

Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health and executive health adviser of The Spa Resorts.

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