This time of year we can start to feel drained and tired and some having low mood. On of the factor can be lacking Vitamin D which can be really prevalent in the winter when you’re not obtaining any vitamins D from the sun.
Vitamin D, sometimes called the sunshine vitamin has a unique relationship with the skin, as it is the site of its synthesis and action and regulates the normal levels of calcium in the blood. Recent research has shed light on this once forgotten vitamin. It has been shown to regulate the growth of skin cells and the production of the oily skin secretion, sebum.
It helps protect your skin cells from oxidative damage and regulates the skin’s immune responses. But it’s action goes further. Growing evidence shows that it plays a vital role in multiple aspects of human physiology but more importantly at this time of year sub-optimal levels may be widespread and therefore contribute to ill health in a number of ways:
The molecular basis for thinking vitamin D has the potential to prevent cancer lies in its role in a wide range of cellular mechanisms central to the development of cancer. A study using data on over 4 million cancer patients from13 different countries showed a marked increase in some cancer risks in countries with less sun and another large study found correlations between vitamin D levels and cancer. The authors suggested that intake of an additional 1,000 international units (IU) (or 25 micrograms) of vitamin D daily reduced an individual’s colon cancer risk by 50%, and breast and ovarian cancer risks by 30%. Low levels of vitamin D in the blood stream have been correlated with breast cancer disease progression and bone metastases.
According to a recent study, having low levels of vitamin D is associated with a doubling of the risk of heart attacks in men and an even greater risk of dying from the cardiac condition. The findings, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, may help shed light on why many people with no known risk factors, such as high blood pressure or smoking, inexplicably develop heart attacks. It also suggests it may be possible to reduce the incidence of the often fatal condition by the use of Vitamin D supplementation.
The possible link between vitamin D insufficiency and heart attacks is among a growing number of recent medical observations about the nutrient.
Mood and Depression
A number of studies have looked at the role of vitamin D and varying degrees of mood disorders and depression. These have shown that symptoms are worse when blood levels of vitamin D are low.
A major and well known biological function of Vitamin D is its effect on calcium and phosphorus absorption, essential for good bone health. However in one study 93% of patients suffering from persistent non-specific musculoskeletal pain were shown to be deficient in vitamin D. This suggests that low levels of vitamin D may be a factor in a range of conditions including bromyalgia.
How much vitamin D do I need?
Most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from their diet and by getting a little sun.
However our ability to get it from the sun diminishes the further north you are from the equator. So from October to March we cannot synthesise vitamin D from sunlight and there is a strong suggestion to supplement it.
The above studies and many like them have led agencies to make recommendations as regards supplementation. For example, in 2007 the Canadian Cancer Society recommended that adults living in Canada should consider taking Vitamin D supplementation of 1,000 international units (IU) a day during the autumn and winter.
Information from the Food Standards Agency suggests that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day. Older people should also consider taking 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day.
You might be particularly short of vitamin D, and so might want to think about taking 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D each day, if you:
■ Asian origin
■ Always cover up all your skin when you’re outside or rarely get outdoors
■ Eat no meat or oily fish
■ Elderly – as we age, our skins ability to convert Vitamin D to its active form decreases.
Fatty fish such as salmon are natural sources of vitamin D. It is also found in eggs and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and powdered milk.
What contribution can diet make?
Natural sources of vitamin D such as: (yes, oily fish again!!)
- Catfish, 85g provides 425 IU
- Salmon, cooked, 100g provides 360 IU
- Mackerel, cooked, 100g 345 IU
- Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 50g 250 IU
- A whole egg provides 20 IU if egg weighs 60g
- Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, 1 Tbs. (15 ml) provides 1360 IU
- Mushrooms are the only vegan source of vitamin D (besides UV light or sunlight exposure).100g provides: (regular) 14 IU (0.14 IU/g), (exposed to UV) 500 IU
If your body cannot produce enough vitamin D because of insufficient sunlight exposure you will need to obtain it from foods and perhaps supplements. Experts say that people with a high risk of vitamin D deficiency should consume 400 – 1000 IU of vitamin D each day so that there is a good level of vitamin D in the bloodstream.
Elderly people, as well as people with dark skin should consume extra vitamin D for good health. The best source is summer sunlight but remember, when summer comes and you’re out in the sun, take care not to burn.
If you have any questions related to this article or wish to discuss vitamin D testing please feel free to contact me on 07956541928