The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D research has progressed massively in the last 10 years. It is a Vitamin that is now considered to be much more important for human health than was once thought. There are numerous studies coming out every year about the health benefits of Vitamin D and it is an exciting area of nutritional research.

sunshineVitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin but a type of pro-hormone and it is produced when UV rays hit cholesterol in your skin. It is then released into the blood where it travels around in general circulation performing its array of functions.

For a very long time people thought that Vitamin D was only really responsible for keeping your bones strong through its relationship with calcium. Doctors discovered that the disease rickets was caused by a deficiency of Vitamin D. However, research over the past couple of decades has shown how Vitamin D is highly influential on many forms of cancer, heart disease and auto immune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It is very interesting when you see a map of the globe with heart disease rates and cancer rates distributed across it. It becomes blatantly obvious, and further research has proved this, that the further away from the equator you live (there are more sunshine hours at the equator) the more likely you are to suffer from a heart attack and many forms of cancer.

It also has a huge effect on mental health and depression and a similar pattern exists again in that the further away from the equator the more likely you are to suffer from depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

One of the key discoveries was that many of the organs in the body were found to have the enzymatic capacity to convert the inactive form of Vitamin D to the activated form in their cells and weren’t reliant on the limited amount of activated Vitamin D produced in the kidneys. This breakthrough discovery allowed scientists to really understand why Vitamin D has such a profoundly positive effect on a wide range of disease states.

There is a lot of controversy as to how best to get the optimum amount of Vitamin D each day as it is not commonly found in food. There are small amounts in salmon and certain types of mushrooms but most people don’t get a great deal of Vitamin D from their diet. Certain governments have been fortifying foods with Vitamin D for several decades and you can of course get Vitamin D as a supplement. However, the guide lines for daily dosages in supplement form are woefully inadequate so the first thing I recommend is to up your intake from the 200-400 International Units (IU) to around 1000-2000 IU each and every day. This will keep the optimum amount of Vitamin D circulating in your blood to provide all of the health benefits we’ve already looked at.

Now contrary to what dermatologists and most doctors, in fact, will tell you exposure to the sun isn’t bad. Over exposure to the sun is bad. In fact, under exposure to the sun could be worse for you then over exposure as many scientific studies are now showing. The best way to get a natural shot of Vitamin is a small amount of daily sun exposure to encourage your skin to manufacture Vitamin D and send it around your body where it is needed. Your body has a built in mechanism that makes it impossible to over produce Vitamin D using sunlight which is why natural Vitamin D production is preferable to supplementation. Depending on your skin type exposing your torso to the suns rays for as little as 10 -15 minutes can produce up to 20,000 IU of Vitamin D. Of course, if you stay in the sun beyond this you’ll need to cover up or put on sun screen in order not to burn, which is where the real danger of too much sun exposure lies.

So there you have, Vitamin D does a lot more good things in the body than many people thought. You’re unlikely to get it from food but supplementation or safe sun exposure will give you more than enough to benefit your health and help you stay free of chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease.