Learn why vitamin D is the \'sunshine vitamin\'

I am one of those people that go to the beach, lather up with sunscreen, wear a hat, wear sunglasses and sit in the shade.

That however was not always the case. When I was much younger, I would rub baby oil and iodine all over my body and bake for hours in the sun.

Why? Well of course because all my friends did the same thing. I did not like to do it then and certainly would never do that now.

I guess you could say we have come a long way in learning what all that over exposure to the sun can cause.

But is 10 minutes a day exposure to the sun with no sunscreen a bad thing or a good thing?

The jury is still out among a lot of health professionals, but one thing is certain: there are many people in our country that are deficient in vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble supplement needed to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Over the last few years, vitamin D deficiency has been blamed for a number of conditions including depression, chronic pain, kidney disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon and breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Much research has been done and much more will be done on the vitamin D debate. Many health professional are very excited about the health benefits of vitamin D and highly recommend it to their patients.

According to an article by Brian Alexander in the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) Fitness Matters magazine, here are some things we know about vitamin D:

Vitamin D was discovered 87 years ago by a team of scientists at John Hopkins University who cured mice with rickets by feeding them cod liver oil. Oily fish like sardines remain one the few natural food sources of vitamin D.

It was later found that certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light prompts our bodies to synthesize vitamin D, eventually making a hormone called calcitriol.

Once this was understood vitamin D was produced synthetically, and foods, mainly milk, were fortified with it.

If you are Caucasian and expose 40 percent of your skin to midday summer sun in most of the United States, you will receive a dose of roughly 1,000 IUs per minute. An international unit (IU) is an internationally accepted amount of a substance. This type of measure is used for the fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D and E) and certain hormones, enzymes and biologicals (such as vaccines).

As we age, we gradually lose our ability to absorb vitamin D.

The darker your skin, the less vitamin D you will receive from the sun.

Where you live can affect your vitamin D levels. Those living north of Atlanta, Ga., do not get enough ultraviolet rays in the winter for their bodies to produce the vitamin D that they need. Therefore, it is important to get your level tested by you physician and let him suggest alternatives.

In the same ACE article, Boston University physician and vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick said, "When I first heard the claims about vitamin D, I thought it was kind of crazy."

But Holick has become convinced of vitamin D’s effectiveness. "Heart, colon, prostrate, brain, all those cells have receptors for vitamin D, we also know it stimulates serotonin production [important in depression], and it is important in muscle function."

Other studies have been inconclusive on the positive health benefits of vitamin D. So the arguments on both sides of the debate continue.

All sides do agree on one thing: more research is needed.

As fitness professional, I urge you to speak to your health care provider on the issue of vitamin D and how it may or may not help you on your road to wellness.

LINDA STOLLINGS is a personal fitness trainer in Bristol, Tenn. E-mail her at info@fitprescriptions.com or visit www.fitprescriptions.com.


Source: tricities.com

last updated: 2010-09-01 return

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