Author: Kylie Burns
Our registered dietitian gives us insight into the value of Vitamin D and the surprising reality of how many of us are likely deficient.
Our bright beautiful sun often gets a bad rap, being associated with depressing things like skin cancer, sun spots, sunburns, and so on.
While those can certainly be byproducts of overexposure to the sun, did you know that one of the most important vitamins in the body is actually produced by the UVB rays from the sun?
Vitamin D is the only vitamin to be synthesized from a source outside of food, but despite its natural abundance on sunny days, deficiency is tremendously high among Americans and many other countries worldwide. So much so, that it would not be outlandish to say that you are likely deficient as well!
According to the Department of Public Health & Social Work (2011), the overall prevalence rate of vitamin D deficiency is 41.6%, with the highest being amongst individuals with darker skin (blacks, 82%; Hispanics 69%).
Why do I need the sunshine vitamin?
Vitamin D is the Robin to calcium’s Batman. When it comes to the bones, uptake of calcium is not possible without Vitamin D.
Low to no Vitamin D, means children are at risk for rickets and adults are at risk for osteoporosis. As research continues, Vitamin D has more potential health benefits than previously thought including its possible role in reducing the risk for cancers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases (colds/flus, malaria, Hepatitis C, etc.).
You may be more at risk for deficiency if you are overweight, older than 60, do not get sufficient sun exposure, or have a disease that causes fat malabsorption like Celiac’s, Crohn’s, or have been using antibiotics for a prolonged period of time.
Find it in food
On the note of insufficient sun exposure, if you live north of the 40 degrees latitude line (think the border between Nebraska and Kansas), you have a higher risk of being deficient in Vitamin D.
Now if you’re borderline desperate like us Alaskans during the winter, and the sun isn’t on your side, you can take advantage of the fact that there are several foods naturally carrying adequate amounts of vitamin D:
Some food products that have also been fortified with Vitamin D include:
I can tell you this, the likelihood of you reading about any type of supplement endorsement on this website is lower than Shaq’s free throw percentage.
But, if there is one thing you should highly consider supplementing it is Vitamin D. Considering the majority of us are not getting enough of this, supplementation can definitely help bridge the gap!
Every individual will require a different amount, but based on general recommendations form the Institute of Medicine, 600 IU a day of vitamin D may be the magic number.
If you are curious about what your Vitamin D levels and magic number actually are, a simple blood test at your doctor’s office can give you answers!