Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels increase risk of early death for 66 percent of Americans

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(NaturalNews) The sun is quintessential in facilitating life on planet Earth, meeting the biological requirements of species in all forms. In addition to making our existence possible, sunlight makes us feel good, and according to a new study, keeps us alive longer.

While some places on Earth experience endless amounts sunshine, others aren't so lucky. Large populations residing in colder regions consider sunlight a delicacy, many flocking to the Sunbelt of the southern and southwest United States. The equator divides the Earth's surface between the North Pole and the South Pole. The further you are away from the equator, the greater of an angle the sun hits the atmosphere, making it more difficult to absorb the sun's most natural rays, or ultraviolet B (UVB).

Those of us fortunate enough to live in the Sunbelt, have less to worry about when it comes to getting enough vitamin D. The amount of sunlight needed to maintain vitamin D levels depends on a few different factors including the time of day, where you live, the color of your skin and the amount of skin you expose.

Your body produces more vitamin D when exposed to natural light during mid-day when the sun is it hottest. Pale skin absorbs sunlight faster therefore requiring less time spent outside. Those of us with pale skin require about 15 minutes of direct sunlight daily, and those with darker skin tones could need up to two hours in order to acquire enough of the sunshine vitamin.

Factors like air pollution, altitude levels, the weather, and sunscreen can also affect how much sunlight you absorb.

Sunlight essential for optimal health

Regardless of the limitations, getting enough vitamin D is extremely important to living a healthy and happy life. The sunshine vitamin helps facilitate muscle function, strengthens your bones, decreases your chance of heart disease and even reduces the likelihood of getting the flu.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine discovered people with the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood were 90 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with the highest concentrations of the vitamin. People with vitamin D levels of 30 ng/ml or less experienced a higher risk of dying early.

The study's lead researcher, Dr. Cedric Garland reported that approximately 66 percent of the U.S. population suffers from vitamin D deficiency.

"Three years ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that having a too-low blood level of vitamin D was hazardous," said Dr. Garland, professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UC San Diego.

"This study supports that conclusion, but goes one step further. The 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) blood level cutoff assumed from the IOM report was based solely on the association of low vitamin D with risk of bone disease. This new finding is based on the association of low vitamin D with risk of premature death from all causes, not just bone diseases."

The study published in the June 12 issue of American Journal of Public Health, analyzed the blood of more than a half a million participants with an average age of 55, throughout 14 different countries. The publication examined the relationship between vitamin D blood levels and various types of death from 32 studies conducted over nearly an 80 year period.

While foods like salmon, sardines, egg yolks, shrimp, and milk provide us with vitamin D, it's difficult to obtain the amount required through foods, but taking vitamin D supplements can do the trick if you're reluctant or unable get sun exposure.

It's also important to remember that people 50 years or older require more vitamin D than younger folk, and getting too much sun that results in burning is dangerous. "Research to date shows that moderate but frequent sun exposure is healthy but overexposure and intense exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer," according to a report by the Vitamin D Council.

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