Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is actually not a vitamin at all, but rather a hormone which is made in the skin during exposure to the sun, hence the reason why it is also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. 1 Vitamin D is essential for numerous vital processes in the body, but one of the most important is the development and maintenance of strong, healthy bones through the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus. However, if there’s a vitamin D deficiency, these important processes are affected and so too is our health.
Vitamin D deficiency is sadly very common and plays a major role in the development of many chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. Interestingly, vitamin D has gained increased attention over recent years for the important role it plays in our immune system and has been shown to reduce and protect against viral or bacterial upper respiratory infections.2
Insufficient sun exposure, particularly for those living in the northern hemisphere, is one of the biggest causes of a vitamin D deficiency. Even covering up the skin with clothing or sunscreen when outside or spending a lot of time indoors can be detrimental. Other factors that can cause a deficiency include a persons age. Seniors who may lack mobility tend to spend less time outdoors and in addition, their skin does not have as much ability to absorb vitamin D.2
However, we do need to be sensible as excessive exposure to UV radiation can be dangerous. Experts say it is a careful balance between the risks and benefits of sun exposure, but recommend vitamin D supplementation may be a safer option in the more vulnerable, high risk population.3
Oral vitamin D supplementation is an easy, cost-effective way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, especially as I mentioned before, for those of us who live in the more northern latitudes where sun exposure is greatly reduced for much of the year. Your vitamin D status can be checked through a simple blood test which will determine whether or not you need to take a supplement. Supplemental D3, which is derived from cod liver oil, is the most effective form of vitamin D to treat a deficiency. The current suggested daily intake of 1000-2000 IU vitamin D3 may be sufficient to reduce the incidence of vitamin D-deficiency related diseases.4
- Mindell, E. ‘The Food Medicine Bible’, Chpt 3, pg 51. (1994).
- Murray, M.T. ND & Pizzorno, J. ND. ‘Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine’, Supplementary Measures, 77-78 & Immune System Support, 177. (1998)
- Br J Dermatol 2009 Nov;161 Suppl 3:54-60.
- Coll Antropol. 2008 Oct;32 Suppl 2:159-62.