Dr. Tim Harlan aka Dr. Gourmet
Special for HealthKey.com
June 2, 2010
There is mounting evidence that many of us are increasingly deficient in vitamin D. While there is some controversy about the health impact of this, it seems that changes in our diet in the last few years toward fewer foods rich in vitamin D has led to a much lower intake. Likewise, with the recommendations on avoiding the sun and wearing sunscreen while in the sun to prevent skin cancer we end up with less available vitamin D (contact with the sun activates our own bodies' manufacturing of vitamin D).
The longstanding recommendations of 200 to 400 International Units (IU) may not be adequate, according to some research. There is not consensus, however, on whether vitamin D supplements are as effective as natural sources. The skin produces about 10,000 IU of vitamin D in response to 20 to 30 minutes of summer sun exposure. This is going to vary somewhat depending on latitude, the time of year, time of day, cloudiness, etc. Consequently, there are some scientists who believe that mild sun exposure is acceptable and the risk of skin cancer is outweighed by the benefit of preventing other diseases.
All of this arises out of research showing a link between low vitamin D levels in the blood and heart disease, cancers and other illness including diabetes and osteoporosis. Talking about vitamin D is clearly a good topic for you to discuss with your physician regarding the risk vs. benefit for you of taking vitamin D supplements or spending limited, controlled time in the sun. Vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning that the body absorbs it and holds on to it along with fat stores. Consequently, you can easily overdose on vitamin D supplements.
Getting enough vitamin D in your diet is possible and goes along with Mediterranean style diet. The easiest way is to eat more fish. Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, herring and sardines contain high amounts of vitamin D. Here is a list of foods high in vitamin D: