Take sunlight as a case in point. For years now, you’ve heard through public service announcements, commercials and your dermatologist that sunlight is dangerous. So, if you’re like most Americans, you slather on sunscreen before going outside, you wear sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat, and you stay indoors during the peak hours of the day.
It turns out, you may have gone a little overboard. Sunlight is your body’s main source of vitamin D. When sunlight hits your skin it catalyzes the production of vitamin D, and vitamin D is very, very important to your health.
Just take a look at some of the evidence…
Vitamin D Lowers Cancer Risk: In a clinical trial involving postmenopausal women, those who regularly supplemented with vitamin D and calcium lowered their relative risk of suffering from any cancer by 60 percent.
Vitamin D Protects Your Heart: Researchers looked for an association between low vitamin D levels and heart disease risk factors. They found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood were 30% more likely to have high blood pressure. And nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes and become obese.
But that’s not all. A low level of vitamin D led to 47% higher triglyceride levels.
Vitamin D Builds Strong Bones: Studies show that sixty-six percent of adults with osteoporosis or osteopenia (both diseases that cause the loss of bone density) also have low levels of vitamin D.
How to Be Sure You’re Getting Enough Vitamin D
Sunlight is the safest, healthiest way to be sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. There are a couple of keys to safe and healthy sun exposure:
1. Sunscreen disrupts the vitamin D process, so plan to go out into the sun unprotected for short periods of time when the sun is high. Twenty minutes three times a week is a good start.
2. Base your sun exposure on your complexion. Fair-skinned people need much less sun than people with darker complexions.
3. Don’t let your skin burn. If you’re going to be out in the sun for a longer period of time, take measures to protect yourself.
A number of people are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. The elderly, people who are obese, and African Americans are all more likely to develop a vitamin D deficiency.
Also, during the winter months, unless you live close to the equator, you’re likely to develop a deficiency. That’s why, for people in these groups or locations, it is important to supplement.
When choosing a vitamin D supplement, you want to pick one that contains vitamin D3. This is the active component of vitamin D and sometimes called cholecalciferol. It is safe and easy for your body to use.
Avoid supplements that contain vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol. It’s not a form that your body can use easily, and it can be toxic in high amounts.
The best natural source of vitamin D, second only to the sun, is cod liver oil. There are actually a number of cod liver oil brands available that don’t taste fishy and that serve as an excellent nutritional supplement. All it takes is a tablespoon a day, so give it a try!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News