Vitamin D is essential for optimal functioning of our body. 70% of the American children do not get enough vitamin D, showed two recent studies published in The Journal of Pediatrics.This lack of vitamin D poses a risk of overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure, decreased good cholesterol levels and a risk of heart disease in their more mature years. 9% of them had deficiency of vitamin D and 61% didn’t have sufficient amount of it.
How vitamin D regulates cells and genes?
Vitamin D is beneficial for our health and reduces the growth of the cells (which promotes cancer) and aids cell differentiation (this way the cell are in anti-cancer state) which makes it one of the most powerful cancer protectors. All this clarifies how the lack of it can cause prostate, breast and ovarian cancer.
The cellular receptor sends messages to our genes thus controlling various functions such as protecting from cancer, decreasing inflammation, improving mood, relieving muscle pain and fibromyalgia and building bones. Vitamin D acts on this cellular receptor. So, when we lack vitamin D it affects every area of our biology because of its impact on our cells and genes function.
Under sunlight our body produces vitamin D (80-100% is got from the sun) which makes our skin slightly red. This way it produces in our bodies the equivalent of 10,000 – 25,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. The problem is that many of us don’t expose themselves directly on sunlight as they use sunscreen. Sunscreen prevents skin cancer but unfortunately also block 97% of the creation of vitamin D in our bodies. Furthermore, as we age the skin produces less and less vitamin D. Also, dark-skinned people and people from cultures that propagate skin coverage like Orthodox Jews and Muslims produce less vitamin D.
People don’t know what is the recommended amount of vitamin D. The recommended dose by the government is 200-600 IU which is enough to prevent rickets (a disease you get from lack of vitamin D). Dr. Michael Holick, professor of medicine, psychology and dermatology at Boston University School of medicine, carried out a research that showed that the consumption of 2,000 IU per day is sufficient to maintain blood levels of 25 hidroxy vitamin D at between 75-125 nmol/L. It is safe, even though it seems high. People from counties in which sun exposure is about 10,000 IU per day have blood levels of vitamin D of 105-163 nmol/L. Autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, sclerosis, inflammatory bowel movement, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are very rare in those countries.
It has also been proved to protect and cure osteoporosis, a fact that makes it more important than calcium because in order for the body to absorb calcium it needs vitamin D. This means that if the body lacks vitamin D the intestines can absorb only 10-15% of dietary calcium. As the amount of this vitamin increases, the bone-protective properties increase as well.
Tips to get the right amount of vitamin D
This depends on your age, how far north you live, how much sunlight you get, and the time of the year. Follow these steps to get the needed amount of vitamin D:
Get tested for 25 OH vitamin D – the amount needed for protecting from rickets is 25-137 nmol/L (10-55 ng/ml), but the range for optimal health should be 100-160 nmol/L (40-60 ng/ml)
Take the right kind of vitamin D – the active form of vitamin D is D3 (cholecalciferol) and the prescribed vitamin D has D2 which is not biologically active.
Take the right amount of vitamin D – take 5,000 – 10,000 IU per day for 3 months (with doctor’s supervision) if are dedicient. And if you only with to maintain good level, take 2,000 – 4,000 IU per day.
Watch carefully your vitamin D status until you are in the optimal range – you doctor has to control your calcium, phosphorous and parathyroid level of hormones every 3 months if you are taking large doses.
6-10 months are enough to “fill up the tank” for vitamin D – you can decrease the dose to the maintenance dose of 2,000-4,000 IU per day if deficiency appears.
Make sure you eat dietary sources of vitamin D – fish liver oils such as cod liver oil (1 tbsp. of vitamin D/1,360 IU); wild salmon-cooked (3.5 ounces/360 IU); cooked mackerel (3.5 ounces/245 IU); sardines-canned in oil and drained (1.75 ounces/250 IU); an egg (20 IU)