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The Vitamin D Era/Error?

The Vitamin D Era/Error?

Vitamin D is a hot topic in both conventional and alternative medicine. Many health organizations have identified low levels of Vitamin D as a "health crisis emergency" and are urging that everything possible be done to ensure everyone achieves optimal Vitamin D status.
Studies are reporting that most of the world's population - including at least 86% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D - especially in the winter.
How can this be happening? And what should you do about it for you and your family? The answer isn't as simple as drinking more fortified milk.
(BOLD & LARGER TEXT)If I don't have rickets - what's so important about vitamin D deficiency?
The effects of vitamin D deficiency go way beyond rickets.
A review article in the July 19, 2007 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine documents that those with less than optimal Vitamin D levels have increase incidence of:
* Autoimmune diseases
* Osteoarthritis
* Depression and other psychiatric disorders
* Hypertension
* Pulmonary disorders
* Schizophrenia
* Cardiovascular diseases
In addition, low levels of Vitamin D have been related to:
* Osteoporosis
* Muscle weakness
* Hypothyroidism
* Non-specific musculoskeletal pain
* Chronic low back pain
* Fibromyalgia
* Stroke
* Diabetes
* Systemic inflammation
* Migraines
* Periodontal disease
* Autism
* Multiple sclerosis
* Birth defects
* Obesity
* Insulin resistance
* 17 varieties of cancer
Life Extension Foundation research shows that achieving adequate Vitamin D levels in the US population could prevent as many as 3/4 of all cancers in as little as four years.
Research also reveals that 275,00 American lives could be saved each year if a nationwide program to get adequate vitamin D levels was implemented.
(BOLD & LARGER TEXT)I am OK because I eat foods rich in vitamin D.
Americans have begun counting on the intake of vitamin D fortified foods to supply their vitamin D. But you would have to drink gallons of fortified milk or orange juice just to head off downright vitamin D malnutrition. The truth is there are no sufficient dietary sources of vitamin D.
(BOLD & LARGER TEXT)But I get all the vitamin D I need from the sun
Don't count on it!
Vitamin D levels can remain low in some people despite abundant exposure to sunlight. One study showed that 51% of individuals who had a mean of 11.1 hours per week of total body skin exposure with no sunscreen remained low in Vitamin D levels.
The body's natural way to make vitamin D is to convert it from sun exposure. When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet -B (UVB) radiation from the sun the UVB penetrates the skin and is converted to what we commonly call vitamin D.
An average healthy body can make 10,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D with 15-20 minutes of sun exposure. Sounds like a perfect set up except for a few snags.
To get optimal vitamin D intake from sun exposure:
* The sun must be high in the sky (midday from noon to 2 PM
* You must have about 2/3 of your body's skin exposed- not just your arms and leg
* You need to be sun exposed for 15-30 minutes or until the skin starts pinking - but doesn't turn red as it is never a healthy practice to sunburn.
* Don't wear sun block- it blocks the absorption of UVB rays
* You have to be outside as glass windows block the needed UVB rays
* You need to do this daily or at least several times a week
Other factors that affect the effectiveness of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels through sun exposure - Tanned skin loses its ability to manufacture Vitamin D.
As we age, our ability to convert vitamin D in the skin diminishes. Many midlife people don't manufacture vitamin D well at all.
Obese people don't easily generate vitamin D in the skin.
If your skin is very light, or if you are at risk of or have a history of melanoma sun exposure is not a workable option for you.
The darker your skin and the more melanin pigment it contains, the more prolonged sun exposure you will need to produce adequate vitamin D.
The sun being low on the horizon, atmospheric ozone, clouds, and particulate air pollution deflect UVB radiation away from the surface of the Earth. Early and late in the day virtually no vitamin D production occurs in the skin.
Those who live above 35 degrees latitude in the Northern hemisphere can only get enough UVB radiation from the sun for vitamin D conversion between May and September.
At such latitudes people experience what is called a vitamin D winter when no UVB penetrates the atmosphere - which means that you are not getting any vitamin D conversion from sun exposure even if you are naked outside all day. During the fall and late winter, UVB only penetrates the earth's atmosphere around solar noon.
(BOLD & LARGER TEXT)I take my multi-vitamin and that has plenty of vitamin D in it
Another way we get vitamin D is through supplementation. But the average supplementation dosages are far below what is actually needed to maintain good health.
New research is highlighting how woefully obsolete the dietary recommended daily intake values are. Many experts now agree that - 200 IU (International Units) a day for adults 19-50 years old, 400 IU for those 51-70, and 600 IU for those over 70- for vitamin D are dangerously low and are contributing to the epidemic deficiencies.
Growing numbers of studies are showing that adults need at least 2000 to 5000 IU per day and children 1000 to 2000 IU per day. Much of the public and many physicians are still unfamiliar with these doses.
Vitamin D at doses much higher than the traditional levels appear to be safe, to be needed for optimal health, and to be important in reducing the risk of contracting and for recovering from many serious diseases and conditions.
Because everyone's needs are different, it is important to work with a health care practitioner who is knowledgeable about the new research on vitamin D and to not self-dose without full and optimal understanding of your needs.
(BOLD & LARGER TEXT)What do I do now?
(BOLD)Collect more information(END): The sad fact is that most doctors are not yet up to date on the new requirements for optimal vitamin D health. So, your first step is to collect more in-depth information about vitamin D. You can talk to a health care professional who is knowledgeable about the up to date research on vitamin D and you can find out more by visiting research organizations dedicated to vitamin D research at and
(BOLD)Get tested(END): the only sure way to know if you have optimal levels of vitamin D is to test. The only blood test that can diagnose vitamin D deficiency is a 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D ). You can get this test through your doctor, the Vitamin D council, the GrassrootsHealth organization, ZRT laboratory, and many nutritionists.
(BOLD)Get your 25(OH)D levels between 50-80 ng/ml year-round (END): Work with a knowledgeable health care practitioner to implement safe, sensible, vitamin D supplementation individualized for your particular situation.

Mary Ann Copson, a Certified Licensed Nutritionist and a Wellness and Life Coach is the founder of the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center for Women . You can visit her online at or reach her by phone at 434-263-4996.
A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions.

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