Thursday, May 19, 2011

The importance of Vitamin D

Sorry for the long absence! I had the pleasure of attending the 8th Annual Nutrition and Health Conference in San Francisco, where nutrition and health heavyweights such as Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Andrew Weil, Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle spoke, just to name a few. 

It was a truly life changing experience! 

One of the things I learned while there was the importance of Vitamin D. Now you may have read in the news or online this year about Vitamin D deficiencies or you may even know someone who came back from a routine check-up with this complaint. It's no joke! 

Doctor Michael Holick, from the Boston University School of Medicine, spoke about Vitamin D and explained how daily exposure to the sun (the primary and most efficient source of Vitamin D) can prevent cancer and even many autoimmune diseases. He has done many studies that have found that Vitamin D deficiency is linked with cancer and even mental disorders such as schizophrenia and even dementia. They've also found that if you live near the equator (where you are exposed to more sunlight every day), you have a much smaller chance of getting Type 2 diabetes. 
Get some sun, but not too much! 

If this all sounds really serious and scary, it is! The ironic part, though, is that Vitamin D is one of the easiest things to get- all you have to do is spend at least 20 minutes in the sun between the hours of 10am and 3pm! That's it! People with darker skin tones will need to spend more time than that, with African Americans needing twice that. This is one of the reasons why Dr. Holick believes African Americans have high incidences of many diseases (because they tend to be severely Vitamin D deficient). 

You can opt to take a supplement, of at least 2000 IU (int'l units) daily, however, keep in mind that when exposed to sunlight, Vitamin D lasts twice as long as a supplement does in the body. 

You might be thinking food fortified with Vitamin D is a quick fix, unfortunately, it's not. Most food fortified with Vitamin D like juice, milk and cereal contain so little Vit. D that you would need to literally drink 6 glasses of juice/milk a day to get the recommended daily amount. 

Finally, if your dermatologist has told you to stay out of the sun or apply sunblock during peak burning hours (10am to 3pm) you might want to think again. Unfortunately even SPF 30 reduces the ability of our bodies to make Vitamin D by 99%. 

So your best bet is to spend at least 20 minutes in the sun daily, between the hours of 10am and 3pm, and THEN use sunblock! If you are very concerned about skin cancer, you might find it interesting to know that most melanomas occur on the least sun-exposed areas of the skin, which leads us to believe that there are other factors other than sun exposure involved. 

So, moral of the story, if you wanna remain cancer free and healthy and strong, get your daily Vitamin D!

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