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The Amazing Sunshine Vitamin!

The autumn flower of sun flare.

The autumn flower of sun flare.

Fat-soluble Vitamin D, also called “The Sunshine Vitamin”, is actually not a vitamin, which must be consumed through the diet, but a HORMONE, which is produced in the body. It is acquired through sunlight, diet or supplementation. Numerous experts agree, this hormone is responsible for general good health and well-being, and up to 85% of Americans are deficient in this hormone! Vitamin D is necessary for growth and development of bones and teeth, boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, aids in blood clotting, and helps maintain normal thyroid function. In addition, it protects against cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, dementia, falls and fractures and even the flu!

Very few foods in nature contain Vitamin D. Wild fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, real butter, fortified milk (although in D2 form) and egg yolks.

Who should supplement? Everyone! Numerous studies have proven the general population is deficient in Vitamin D and this has led to an increase in many diseases. Studies show many of the 23 million Americans with diabetes are deficient in Vitamin D. The following factors can cause deficiencies: increasing age, fat malabsorption from the gut, fat-blocking weight loss agents (like Orlistat), certain medications (like prednisone and phenytoin), and sunscreen (by preventing Vitamin D absorption from the skin). Also, African Americans should supplement due to high skin melanin, as well as obese individuals (BMI > 30) or those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

Research from Vanderbilt University reported that Vitamin D3 is far more effective at reducing death than Vitamin D2 (6% vs. 2%). Vitamin D3 is made by your body in response to sun exposure, whereas, Vitamin D2 is irradiated plant matter and fungus. Vitamin D3 is natural to your body, it is more available, is more potent and, therefore, better than Vitamin D2.

I can’t stress this enough, KNOW YOUR LEVEL! No single dose is right for everyone. In order to have adequate supplementation to obtain optimal blood levels of Vitamin D, your physician needs to obtain a 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D, or 25(OH)D, blood level. Most physicians recommend 2000 IU to 4000 IU daily for most people, however, you should take enough supplemental Vitamin D3 to keep your level in the optimal range of 60-80 ng/mL. Levels < 30 ng/mL have been linked to hip fractures in elderly, increased risk of heart attacks, fatigue, even multiple sclerosis and cancer. It is necessary to take calcium when taking Vitamin D. Take with your fatty meal of the day, or at the same time as fish oil supplements. In addition, try to get sun exposure on face and arms for 10-15 minutes, at least three times a week without sunscreen.