Research published recently states that a modest amount of sun exposure is critically important for optimum health. Studies at Moore’s Cancer Center at the University of California, UCSD, suggest that 600,000 cases of cancer could be prevented worldwide if light-skinned people received just 20 minutes of sunlight per day. Darker complexions require more sunlight for the same amount of benefit.
A recent paper published by Dr. Joe Mercola summarizes the research and suggests a healthful approach to optimizing our use of this important vitamin.
- Vitamin D protects us from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, rickets, schizophrenia, tuberculosis and myopathy.
- Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D; it is much safer and it’s free. Supplementing with vitamin D isn’t the best approach.
- A little sunlight is good, but more than that isn’t better. Sunburn is still harmful.
- To drink in vitamin D from the sun, just exposing the hands and face isn’t enough. Large areas of skin should be exposed.
- Light-toned skin generally makes enough vitamin D in 20 minutes if 40% of the skin is exposed; very dark skin could take two hours.
- Antioxidants help prevent sunburn. Sunscreens can contain toxins or prevent the vitamin D from forming.
- Moderate sun exposure by itself doesn’t cause cancer; it’s the combination of a poor diet that lacks essential fatty acids and antioxidants combined with excessive sun exposure that triggers the skin cancer. There’s evidence that modest sun exposure actually reduces the risk of skin cancer.
- Vitamin D prevents disease; it helps your body to produce antimicrobial peptides that destroy viruses and bacteria. Vitamin D also increases the level of white blood cells in our blood. This is why tuberculosis was cured in the early 20th century by exposing the patients to sunlight.
- The vitamin also increases anti-inflammatory cytokines, suppresses vascular calcification, and creates stronger bones.
- Vitamin D prevents preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are leading causes of the deaths of mothers and infants during childbirth – estimated at 76,000 worldwide each year.
- The deficiency of this important nutrient is epidemic among African-Americans and other dark-skinned peoples, especially those living in cold climates.
Getting the Right Amount of Vitamin D
- Don’t overdose on vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so it can build up in the tissues. Signs of an overdose are vomiting, constipation, weight loss, kidney failure and calcification of the arteries. It’s much better to get your vitamin D from sunlight.
- Where the lack of sunlight or the excess of cold weather make sunbathing a problem, UVB lights are a way of getting vitamin D, but use common sense. It’s possible to get sunburn from UVB lights, especially if taking medications that increase sensitivity to UVB.
- Vitamin D creams are another possibility. They claim to provide vitamin D3 through the skin.
- If you have to supplement vitamin D, note that there is more than one form of vitamin D. The best form is D3, cholecalciferol. The synthetic vitamin is D2, ergocalciferol. Your body can convert D2 into a usable form, but it takes 500 times longer than D3.
- When supplementing with vitamin D, it’s best to also supplement vitamin A. The real vitamin A (not betacarotene) is needed. Inexpensive vitamin A from fish oil is available from health-food stores.
- Whoever supplements vitamin D should get periodic blood tests. The test is known as 25(OH)D and has an optimum level of 50-55 ng/ml or 115-128 nmol/l. Normal is considered to be 20-56 ng/ml but normal isn’t necessarily healthy. If you want optimum health, 50-55 is the number to shoot for. The average in the wintertime USA is only 15-18 ng/ml.
Our resourceful bodies were designed to get vitamin D from sunlight. As with all nutrition, it makes sense to use natural methods that are free and uncomplicated. Supplementing vitamin D (and vitamin A) is an option if care is used to avoid overdosing and a doctor is able to monitor the levels of vitamin D in the blood. Either way, the considerable health benefits of vitamin D are worth the trouble.