Vitamin D Before C
by Jeff Caulfield
Cathetel Staff Writer

Sunshine Vitamin D   

For decades, doctors and nutritionists have been sounding the alarm that many of us are not getting enough calcium in our diets therefore supplementation is sorely needed. Increased calcium aids primarily in the prevention of osteoporosis (which means reduced bone mineral density and increased bone fragility) Multinational companies have responded by fortifying many of the foods we eat and a good number of us have heeded the call as this supplement is increasingly front and centre on our nutritional radar.

But, what of its little noticed, inexpensively priced companion: namely vitamin D? Vitamin D is most notably crucial for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. As well it is an immune system regulator. Scientists have uncovered up to 2000 different genes - roughly one sixth of the human genome - that is regulated by vitamin D. Your body definitely needs it! My own family doctor has indicated to me that in all her years of practice she has never seen a patient yet that has adequate vitamin D levels - not one! And yet, it is such a necessary part of the body. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many diseases not the least of which are: cancer, multiple sclerosis, alzheimers, immune system difficulties and chronic pain.

Oddly enough, not many foods contain this precious mineral. Salmon and tuna are considered the best source but one must be careful not to consume fish every day as they are also known to contain high levels of Mercury. Some can also be found in cheese, eggs and beef liver. So, like calcium and other trace minerals, for many of our nutritional needs this supplement is artificially added to many of the commonplace foods we eat. But, are we still getting enough? And, exactly how much is enough? According to various studies as many as half - and up to 70% - of North Americans alone are vitamin D deficient.

For most adults a supplement of 1000 IU (international units) a day is considered the absolute bare minimum amount. I myself take 6,000 - 10,000 IU per day along with whatever comes in the food I eat and drink. Can one intake too much vitamin D? Not really, as it would seem that whatever the body doesn't need is simply excreted. My doctor once told me that if I was to feel a cold coming on I should take 25,000 IU per day for three days and my cold will be gone!

Another way to get adequate vitamin D levels is through sun exposure. But, the problem with this is that as a society we are now cautiously hiding and avoiding the sun for fear of skin cancer. Kids don't play outside as much anymore but would rather enjoy the plethora of electronic devices inside. And, whenever we do finally venture outside we cover ourselves with long-sleeved clothing, hats and generous amounts of sunblock. But, if the sun does not penetrate through to our skin then vitamin D cannot be manufactured. Also, the ultraviolet rays necessary for vitamin D synthesis to occur does not pass through ordinary window glass so sitting in a bright sun-drenched room is of no value other than giving you a feeling of warmth. A human being (dependant on where one lives in the world) requires 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure at least twice a week. For people who live in Northern climates, between October and March, it is nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D no matter how exposed you are as the sun is weaker and daylight shorter. And, for people of color it's worse as the melanin in darker skin decreases vitamin D production by up to 90%. Therefore, vitamin D supplementation is critical!

According to Dennis Bourdette, chairman of the Department of Neurology and director of the Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Centre at Oregon Health and Science University in the United States, studies have found that adequate amounts of vitamin D may reduce the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis appears to be much less common in people the nearer you are to the tropics - where there is much more sustained and intense sunlight.

So, the next time you reach for that fortified box of cereal or carton of milk check the label to see just how much of this wondrous little mineral vitamin D is in it. And, if it doesn't seem adequate to you then either supplement or simply take your breakfast outside and eat it in the morning sun. You'll be glad you did.


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