By Anthony Masters
Now that we will soon be approaching the cold autumn and winter months, the likelihood that you are producing sufficient vitamin D is unlikely. Especially if you live in the UK where the sun seems to disappear for half of the year! Over 85% of the UK population is deficient in vitamin D during the Winter/Spring months. We should all be supplementing some amount of Vitamin D to ensure our levels do not drop too low.
Why is Vitamin D important?
- Vitamin D is produced in our body in response to direct sunlight, it is stored within the cells of our body and plays an important role in making proteins that help regulate essential functions in the human body so that we can grow and repair.
- Low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteoporosis, bone fractures and other bone health issues. With low calcium intake and low vitamin D levels our body struggles to maintain bone health.
- Vitamin D assists in reducing inflammation. Many studies have found that patients with skin disorders as a result of inflammatory conditions such as eczema, acne, psoriasis and dandruff have been deficient in vitamin D.
- Vitamin D improves blood sugar regulation, insulin sensitivity and decreases insulin resistance. Hence improved levels of vitamin D will help lower the risk of diabetes.
- Vitamin D plays a critical role in the health of our immune systems and its ability to fight off infection. Low vitamin D levels are associated with obesity, improve your vitamin D levels and it will help improve your body composition and reduce fat.
- Low vitamin D is associated with depression.
- Vitamin D helps reduces risk of cancer. It has been linked with fighting various cancers such as breast, lung, colon and prostate.
- Many studies show that Vitamin D deficiency is linked with cardiovascular disease putting you at greater risk of many autoimmune diseases such as type-1 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
- Vitamin D reduces inflammation and blood pressure, controls calcification of blood vessels and improves endothelial function; all of help to reduce stress.
There are endless reasons why vitamin D is so important for us and why we should all consider taking it. Renowned strength & nutrition coach Charles Poliquin outlines a further 25 excellent reasons to take vitamin D.
How do you improve your vitamin D levels?
In terms of dietary intake, you are very limited. Best dietary sources are from oily fish (salmon, sardine and mackerel) and cod liver oil. Very little vitamin D sources are found from dairy products, egg yolk, wild mushrooms and liver.
Typically 10% of our vitamin D requirements come from our dietary intake. This means that the other 90% comes from the SUN! So expose your bare skin to the sun, this will be your best source of Vitamin D. This goes to say that you should avoid applying protective sun cream as you will prevent your body from being able to absorb UVB (ultraviolet-B) light from the sun in order to synthesis into vitamin D.
There is much debate that sun exposure causes DNA damage and skin cancer, yes I agree that excessive exposure, enough to lead to sunburns is not a great idea, especially if you are of the paled skin type. Your body will slowly adapt to sun exposure, so start by spending just 5-10 mins in the sun at a time and gradually increasing your exposure as you become more tolerant to the sun. Just don’t overdo it, a common trend with the UK citizens when the sun shows his face.
During the summer months our body has the best chance of making vitamin D between the hours of 10am and 14pm when the wavelength of the sunlight is correct (wavelength of the light needs to be between 290-320nm) and the ratio of UVB to UVA is highest. I would also advise supplementation, especially in the winter months, well known brands such as Poliquin, Nutri or Solgar are your best choices for good quality.
How much vitamin D do I need and how should I get it tested?
There is agreement that levels below 25nmol/L (10ng/ml) qualify as deficient but beyond this there is currently no standard definition of ‘optimal’ 25(OH)D levels. Some sources suggest that levels above 50nmol/L (30ng/ml) are sufficient, while 70–80nmol/L (28-32ng/ml) is optimal. From my personal opinion having optimal levels of vitamin D will be more beneficial for numerous health reasons. Therefore if you are just below optimal I would still recommend taking a small dosage, if you are extremely deficient then consider following a vitamin D protocol to get you levels up fast.
NOTE: High levels of vitamin D can be toxic to the body, so I would recommend getting a regular blood test done by your local GP to determine how much vitamin D you have, remember to get the actual scores from your GP that tells you exactly how much you have as opposed to a simple pass or fail.