I live in the “sunshine state” where you would think Vitamin D, affectionately known as the “sunshine vitamin” would be in great supply.
Unfortunately, with the increasing rates of skin cancer and the resulting fear of the sun, many of us, even those of us living in Florida, have a vitamin D deficiency.
A study conducted on various workers and their different work environments gives us some interesting insight in to the effects of the sun and the incidence of skin cancer. Some of the participants worked indoors, some worked outdoors, while others worked both indoors and outdoors.
The people who worked in both environments showed less skin cancer than the other two groups.
This leads us to the conclusion that some sun is protective, while underexposure and overexposure are what’s harmful.
There are many older residents here and as we age we often spend less time outdoors due to physical ailments or immobility. Older people may also have less of a capacity to absorb vitamin D. Whenever possible, the ideal way to obtain this necessary nutrient is though the sun, however, when it’s not, vitamin D supplementation may be necessary.
What does it do and why do we need it?
Vitamin D’s functions in the body include:
- maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus
- aiding in the absorption of calcium
- increasing bone density
- decreasing the incidence of hip fractures
Vitamin D helps to prevent:
- certain cancers
- auto-immune disorders
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
What kind to take and how much?
In addition to deciding whether or not to take vitamin D there is also the issue of what form of vitamin D you should take. For those avoiding animal products this is a real consideration.
There are two forms of vitamin D to choose from:
- Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) from plant sources
- Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) found in sheep wool
Why is there a debate? There have many studies showing vitamin D3 supplementation is more effective than Vitamin D2 supplementation. It is now possible to find studies showing D2 is just as effective as D3.
Depending upon your age, vitamin D requirements vary.
- Adults 19-70 – 600 IU or 15 mcg
- Over 70 – 800 IU or 20 mcg
Vitamin D is found in some animal products but it can also be found in fortified plant-based milks, some cereals and some juices.
The only natural plant-based source is mushrooms. The levels of vitamin D in some white button mushrooms are now being increased by putting them under UVB rays.
The down side of taking vitamin D:
- may increase the incidence of kidney stones
- over supplementation can result in many other serious side effects
- shows no increase in mortality rates
It can take as little as 10 minutes a day in the sun to obtain adequate vitamin D. The consumption of fruits and vegetables also offers some protection against skin cancer.
If you can, grab an apple and go for a walk!