(NaturalNews) Whilst avoiding the harsher elements of direct sunlight is not only wise but is necessary, avoiding the sun all together and as the result, not getting enough direct sunlight on our skin, is even more problematic. So, let's examine the benefits of healthy sun exposure without getting burnt or promoting sun damage.
Did you know that according to a June 2007 study (1), not getting enough direct sunlight increases our chances of cancer by at least 70%? Why? Because our bodies need natural sunlight to synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D in order to keep our bones strong and healthy, as well as support the immune system.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, in the form of calciferol (vitamin D3) is a fat-soluble vitamin. It is found in food, but also can be made in your body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Vitamin D exists in several forms, each with a different function. Some forms are relatively inactive in the body, and have limited ability to function as a vitamin. The liver and kidneys help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form known as calcitriol; so, in actual fact, vitamin D technically is sunlight derived pro-hormone calcitriol. Vitamin D in its active pro-hormone form of calcitriol is important in determining how our cells express themselves and is vital in the production of various hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in the brain). For the purpose of more clarity and understanding we will refer to calcitriol as vitamin D.
The major biological function of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, and thus helps to form and maintain strong bones and teeth. It regulates bone mineralization in unison with a number of other vitamins, minerals, and hormones. In short, without vitamin D, bones start to become thin, brittle, soft, or misshapen. Vitamin D prevents rickets in children, osteoporosis and osteomalacia in adults.
What does the latest research on Vitamin D offer us?
It offers us practical advice in preventing some serious health issues.
Exciting new research conducted at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska has revealed that supplementing with vitamin D and calcium can reduce your risk of cancer by at least 60 percent. This includes breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer and other forms of cancer. This research provides strong new evidence that vitamin D is the single most effective medicine against cancer, far outpacing the benefits of any cancer drug known to modern science.
The Nebraska 4-year placebo-controlled study has revealed that the group receiving the calcium and vitamin D supplements showed at least 60 percent decrease in cancers. Note that these astonishing effects were achieved on what many nutritionists consider to be a low dose of vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight, which creates even more vitamin D in the body, was not tested or considered, and the quality of the calcium supplements was likely not as high as it could have been (it was probably calcium carbonate and not high-grade calcium aspartate, oratate or citrate).
So what is the bottom line of all this?
The bottom line is that if you take good-quality calcium supplements (for better health avoid pasteurized milk) and get adequate natural sunlight exposure or supplement with a good source of vitamin D (such as high quality cod liver oil), you could easily improve on the 60 percent reductions recorded in this study... but why is it better to get vitamin D from the sun?
Vitamin D, as calciferol (D3) is found in the foods listed below. Most people would not eat these foods on a daily basis all year round and, for this reason would need to get the active form of vitamin D with careful exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Please note it has to be ultraviolet rays of the sun (UV) as these are the only ones that actually trigger the synthesis of vitamin D in our body. So if you rely on solariums or sun tan beds to get your natural sunlight, check if they radiate some ultraviolet rays.
Foods that contain Vitamin D3 and the amount in International Units (IU):
* 1 Tablespoon Cod Liver Oil - 1,360 IU
* 100gr Salmon, cooked - 360 IU
* 100gr Mackerel, cooked - 345 IU
* 100gr Sardines, canned in oil, drained - 270 IU
* 250ml Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D fortified - 98 IU
* 1 whole Egg soft boiled, (vitamin D is present in the yolk) - 25 IU
It is interesting to note here that one would need to drink at least a litre of milk a day to get the minimum requirements of vitamin D, which is around 400 IU. If we were to expose at least 20% of our skin to sunlight all year round for up to 10 minutes a day without any SPF, then we would ensure adequate amounts of vitamin D. The fairer your skin the less direct exposure is needed to activate vitamin D synthesis. For people with very fair skin, just a short burst of sunshine on their skin would also be enough.
As we know the liver and kidney help convert vitamin D to its active hormone form. If anyone has impaired liver or kidney functions then they would require more vitamin D synthesis either from direct sunlight or good quality supplements.
It is imperative to have a simple blood test that a General Practitioner can request, to check your current levels of vitamin D before considering any supplementation. This is because over supplementing with vitamin D could have serious consequences, such as bone resorption (breaking down of the calcium) and soft tissue calcification (hardening). It is very important to know this before considering taking any cod liver oil or other vitamin D supplements. It is very wise to have your vitamin D levels checked 3-4 months after initial supplementation to see if a deficiency is still present.
Deficiency or insufficiency of natural sunlight and vitamin D has been associated with the following conditions:
* adrenal insufficiency
* autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis
Here is an overview of some obvious health related issues from Vitamin D deficiency
* Vitamin D and Bone Health: Having adequate levels of vitamin D in your body helps keep your bones strong and helps prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency (which often masquerades as calcium deficiency) has been associated with greater incidence of hip fractures. A greater vitamin D intake from diet and supplements has been associated with less bone loss in older women. Since bone loss increases the risk of fractures, vitamin D supplementation may help prevent fractures resulting from osteoporosis.
* Diabetes: Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with insulin deficiency and insulin resistance. In fact it was shown in a 2001 study (2) that vitamin D deficiency is likely to be a major factor contributing to the onset of type 1 diabetes in children, as human milk often lacks vitamin D.
* Infertility and PMS: Infertility is associated with low vitamin D, and PMS has been completely reversed by the addition of calcium, magnesium, boron and vitamin D.
* Fatigue and Depression: Activated vitamin D as calcitriol, in the adrenal gland regulates tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate limiting enzyme necessary for the production of dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. The adrenal glands pump these hormones to help us cope with daily stress. Hence, when adrenals have been pumping these powerful hormones for some time our bodies begin to experience constant exhaustion which leads to chronic fatigue. Not having adequate levels of vitamin D may contribute to chronic fatigue and depression.
* Syndrome X: Vitamin D deficiency has been clearly linked with Syndrome X – fat gain around the middle section (3). Syndrome X results from insulin resistance (the inability to properly deal with dietary carbohydrates and sugars), abnormal blood fats (such as elevated cholesterol and triglycerides), overweight, and high blood pressure. Syndrome X condition requires a complete lifestyle and dietary change, focusing on reducing stress levels, which activate these adrenal hormones and promote weight gain, for improvement and long term management.
Vitamin D and Steroids
Steroids, like prednisone, are often prescribed to reduce inflammation related to a variety of medical problems. These medicines may be essential for a person's medical treatment, but they have potential side effects, including decreased calcium absorption.
There is some evidence that steroids may also impair vitamin D metabolism, further contributing to the loss of bone and development of osteoporosis associated with steroid medications. For these reasons, individuals on chronic steroid therapy should consult with their physician or nutritionist about the need to increase vitamin D intake through carefully monitored dietary supplements.
The World Health Organization states that 70% of all cancers are easily preventable through dietary and lifestyle changes. The latest Nebraska research shows us that sunlight and calcium supplements can reduce cancer risks by 77% in women. The question is why won't conventional medicine embrace this low-cost, safe and highly effective method for preventing cancer?
Another question we might ask is why do we not hear as much about the importance of vitamin D as we hear about calcium? The reasons for this, as most would already know, there are no profits in promoting natural sunlight, not for the cancer council or for the pharmaceuticals industry.
In conclusion of the safest way of ensuring adequate vitamin D, getting at least some early morning direct sunlight is very beneficial for all of us. The best sun exposure during summer would be 10 minutes approximately of early morning sun before 9 am or late afternoon after 5 pm.
If planning to stay out longer then applying some natural, chemical-free SPF 15 + sunscreen (you can find these in some health food stores as they are becoming more popular) would be safe for your skin. During winter, 20 minutes of direct sun even during the day on hands, neck, feet, and legs would be ideal. If direct sunlight is not possible in the winter then carefully supplementing with cod liver oil, only if the blood tests reveal a vitamin D deficiency would be beneficial. It is important to understand that the darker your skin, the more sunlight is needed to activate vitamin D synthesis. For the albino population (people with very sun sensitive skin as they lack pigment), the good news is that less direct sun is required, even a short burst of early morning sun would be enough to stimulate vitamin D activation in their system.
In addition, having a diet high in antioxidants - the good guys that prevent premature ageing (antioxidants from super-foods like Wolfberries, blueberries and pomegranates) - is known to help protect the skin from rapid sunburn and premature ageing. In fact, some natural chemical-free sun tan lotions contain fair amounts of antioxidants such as vitamin A and E. The amount of antioxidants that we would require daily would be quite high and probably unachievable for most people. The ideal amount would be more than just a punnet of blueberries; more like 3 or 4 punnets of organic blueberries daily. Yet, if we take super-foods such as Ningxia wolfberries then we might get closer to the ideal antioxidant intake. So, enjoy some fun in the sun and ensure that you have adequate amounts of Vitamin D in your system all year round for optimum health, vitality and longevity.
1. Lappe JM, Travers-Gustafson D, Davies KM, Recker RR, Heaney RP. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.
Teya Skae M.A. ATMS Corporate Wellness Presenter/Researcher and Author As the founder of Empowered Living Teya has developed a results based I.D.E.A.L Solutions for increasing your energy, focus and personal Success! Teya is also a QUIT smoking specialist with proven results in one session guaranteed. For Tangible Results and Solutions to Fat Loss, Physical, Emotional and Mental Fitness visit www.empowered-living.com.au