Great News on Vitamin D

By -Dr. Harold Gunatillake

We talk of antioxidants like vitamin E, C, Flavones, Carotenes and other adjuvant to sustain a healthy long life. Amidst this we have ignored the importance of vitamin D that should be considered as a necessary  micro-nutrient essential for well being and longevity. 

This vitamin is a mother nature's natural substance, obtained naturally from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

With intelligent exposure to the sunlight one could obtain sufficient and entire vitamin D, requirement. The skin being the largest organ, responsible for producing and providing this important nutrient.

In the Western world the health authorities advise the “sun worshipping” people to keep away from the sun due to medical reasons. One such reason is that prolonged exposure to the sun's UV rays cause physical damage to the outer layers of the skin (collagen splitting), enhancing the aging process. Another major reason given is that the incidence of melanoma, life threatening pigmented skin tumour is much higher among the sun worshippers.

Further analyzing on the latter findings, it is difficult to accept that sunrays influence this malignant skin condition. As history will show, traditionally white skin people, especially women have been sun-worshippers for centuries, whilst the incidence of melanoma has increased within this century. It is more likely the diet among the white people have changed, eating too much of man- made “transfats” and other dietetic factors (omega 6 polyunsaturated oils); seem to influence the high incidence. Trans-fats seem to replace the natural fat in the cell walls and tissues of the body, damaging the natural immune system, is considered as a major factor.

According to Dr Michael Holick author of “The UV Advantage”, and one of the world's most respected experts on vitamin D and healing benefits of natural sunlight, states that, if you have liver or kidney disease you will become vitamin D deficient.

As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Hoosick and his roommate worked on isolating and identifying the active form of vitamin D for their PhD project. Over a two year time period, they managed to synthesize it. This synthesized form of vitamin D was given to patients while Dr. Holick was in medical school. Patients that had bone diseases associated with kidney failure, that were wheelchair bound and with severe bone pain, started walking again.

This active form of vitamin D is made in the kidneys, is called 125-dihydroxy vitamin D, and is available in synthetic form.

Vitamin D is also formed in the skin when your skin is exposed to sunshine's ultraviolet rays. These UV rays may not penetrate through the window glasses in your home, or travelling in a car with the tinted glass shutters closed. It is necessary that you expose your skin to direct sunlight without applying sun block lotion. The vitamin D (also referred to as D3) thus manufactured in the skin is now taken through the blood stream to the liver where it is hydroxylated, and becomes 25 hydroxy vitamin D, This is an inactive form of vitamin D, and to be activated is taken to the kidneys, from there the vitamin D becomes modified again, to its active form, which is then called 125 hydroxy Vitamin D.

In addition to the kidneys, it has been found that other organs like the prostate, breast, and colon also can activate vitamin D. In addition to the production of vitamin D from exposure to sun, the vitamin is obtained from many foods and dietary supplements.

Your body can't create vitamin D on its own. Instead, it's designed to make it through sun exposure. You can also ingest D through food, especially, eggs and certain fish, and fortified products including milk, soy milk and breakfast cereals or supplements.

The importance of vitamin D has been discussed in recent conferences, and deficiency in the body has been found to be related to many health concerns: depression, heart disease and stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, parathyroid problems, insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes, immune functions- even weight loss.

If your family practitioner spend more time in questioning his patients in more details about the lifestyles, especially exposure to the sun, outdoor activities, it will be observed that most disease patterns he sees, could be related to producing insufficient vitamin D, especially among our women folk.

Most of our affluent Asian women stay indoors during the day to avoid the heat and the glare of the sun. They travel in air-conditioned vehicles with the tinted glass shutters closed. At their places of destination they sit at comfortable shady places under fans. This creates a gross vitamin D deficiency, consistent with the common diseases we see.

In America too, with better expected living conditions, the Americans have taken for granted the importance of this free, ”God given” natural nutrient Vitamin D, and its deficiency are now in epidemic proportion. Because of the lucrative business for sun screen manufacturers, creating a feeling that sunlight is bad for your skin, to promote their skin products, are responsible for this shocking trend. Especially, the ladies, of all ages are spending much of their earning for these labels, being brainwashed by these outlets to purchase and avoid skin cancer. This has led to over 40-60% of people being at risk for having a vitamin deficiency.

When you even apply sunscreens as low as 8 SPF every time you go outside, you reduce your ability to make vitamin D in your skin by more than 95%. This does not mean that you should stay in the sun without sunscreen lotions till you burn your skin. It is only about 20 minute's sun exposure that is required to produce the daily requirement of vitamin. After such direct short exposure, one may go into the shade and apply sunscreen if you need more exposure to the sunlight.

Dr Holick pointed out that only 20 to 30 minutes three to five times a week of sensible sun exposure is necessary for the average Caucasian, needs longer for darker pigmented skin and overweight individuals.

You cannot overdose with vitamin D like other fat soluble vitamins like A, and E. Nature provides a smart safe guard against over-dosage. Vitamin D thus produced remains in the body to two to three months, and will go sufficient to go through a winter. People in the tropics do not have that problems, and less frequent exposures would be sufficient right through the year. During winter months cod liver oil, and omega-3 fish oils may be supplemented, keeping in mind that the vitamin A in these oils may turn toxic if overdosed. Milk fortified with vitamin D is not a good source, as too much would have to be ingested to benefit.

Calcium intake should be adequate for oral vitamin D intake to work, and vice-versa. Vitamin D regulates the phosphorus levels in the blood by promoting its absorption from food in the intestines. Vitamin D is really not a vitamin, but more likely a hormone by definition in how it is produced and distributed through-out your body. It is actually a precursor hormone-the building block of a powerful steroid hormone in your body called calcitriol. Vitamin D also helps re-absorption of calcium in the kidneys.

Vitamin D promote bone formation and mineralization, thus preventing softening and osteoporosis. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency is linked to colon cancer and more recently to breast cancer.

The problem of vitamin D deficiency has not been stressed in the past, and not given sufficient publicity. It is always how one should bring down the cholesterol level that is in the minds of most people. Again, this too is due to propaganda created by the manufacturers of statins who should be responsible for this imbibed thought. People have got the notion that keeping your cholesterol down is the end all of all diseases. Also, some people think that what's necessary is having the best cardiologist (difficult to judge the best) to treat you, and indulge in all the risk factors in between the visits. Some of them go to the extent of boasting that, “I am with the best cardiologist” and life goes on.

To understand the problem, it is revealed that in the United States, 32% of doctors and med school students are vitamin D deficient: 40% of the U.S. Population is vitamin D deficient: 42% of African American women of child bearing age are vitamin D deficient: 48% of young girls (9-11 years old) are vitamin D defiant: 76% of pregnant mothers are severely vitamin D deficient, causing wide spread vitamin D deficiencies in their unborn babies, which predisposes them to type-1 diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and schizophrenia later in life. 81% of children born to these mothers were deficient: Up to 80% of nursing home residents are vitamin D deficient.

The message is quite clear and simple, sensible skin exposure to natural outdoor sunlight during the warm months of the year is one of the cheapest, easiest, and healthiest ways to improve one's health and avoid a vitamin D deficiency.

Researchers are discovering that D also promotes normal cell growth and differentiation throughout the body, a key factor in maintaining hormonal balance and a healthy immune system. It appears that calcitriol mentioned before, actually becomes part of the physical composition of cells, assisting in the build up and breakdown of healthy tissue- in other words, the process that keeps you well.

Vitamin D requirements

Some studies have revealed that the daily recommended intake of D could be high as 10,000 IU per day will cause no side effects. The European Union's Scientific Committee on Food lists 2000 IU per day as the safety cut-off, as does the US Food and Nutrition Board. Until more studies are available tolerable intake at 1000 IU per day is sufficient. We lose our ability to absorb vitamin D as we age. Our body skin can naturally synthesize more than 20,000 IU of vitamin D in just 20 minutes of sun exposure without ill effect.

Vitamin D protects against breast cancer

Evidence is mounting that vitamin D protects against some cancers, particularly breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancers. Vitamin D deficiency affects your immune system because calcitriol (mentioned earlier) actually helps regulate cell division, so adequate levels may help sustain normal cell growth. In a new study, women with vitamin D deficiency at the time of breast cancer diagnosis were 94% more likely to experience cancer spread and 73% more likely to die over the next 10 years, compared to women with adequate vitamin D levels.

So it may be essential for women with diagnosed breast cancer start taking supplements to improve their outlook, and get them into healthy optimal range, states on a study headed by Pamela Goodwin, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

As some researchers say that Vitamin D puts brakes on Breast Cancer, meaning that this vital vitamin protects women from developing breast cancer in the first place.

Breast cancer cells have vitamin D receptors, and when these receptors are activated by vitamin D, it triggers a series of molecular changes that can slow down cell growth, cause cells to die, and make the cancer less aggressive, says Pamela Goodwin.

She and her co-workers in a new study measured vitamin D levels in the blood of 512 women diagnosed with breast cancer in Toronto between 1989 and 1995; they were followed for 12 years.

Only 24 % had adequate levels of vitamin D when they were diagnosed with cancer. A total of 37.5% were deficient in vitamin D. The other 38.5% had insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Of note, Goodwin says, is that women with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have aggressive cancers than those with sufficient levels.

Foods rich in Vitamin D

Whole foods and complex carbohydrates, Nutrient-dense, fatty fish like mackerel and sardines are good sources of vitamin D. Eggs, fortified organic milk and other dairy products, and some organ meats (like liver) are also good natural sources of D.

There are multivitamin preparations that have added vitamin D, or Omega 3 fish oil, taken daily will supplement your vitamin D requirement.

Check your vitamin D level in blood : The optimal value should be be 50-100 ng/ml. Other authorities have given slightly different figures, ages 0-50 to get 200 IU of vitamin D daily, with 400 IU recommended for those between the ages of 51 and 70. After 70, 600 IU of vitamin D are recommended each day.

This may be necessary if you are not feeling the best lately- having muscle pain, weak bones/fractures, low energy and fatigue, lowered immunity, depression, and mood swings, and sleep irregularities, and losing weight

Expose yourself to the morning or evening sunlight for at least 20 minutes, a few times a week. Take more vitamin D containing foods during winter months those in such climates.

Remember, at the end of the day, optimal health is never checking only your routine medical checks with your family doctor, but checking to diagnose any deficiencies, also. Vitamin D deficiency may be only one factor and checking for others with your family doctor as part of a comprehensive approach to your whole health may be the solution for a lasting healthy life, we all deserve.

Please read and pass it on to a friend to read.

(Some information from Health & Medicine on SQUIDOO, 2008 and women to women, edited by Marcelle Pick – 12/30/2005, last modified 5/14/2008