Extra, extra! Get your free vitamin D!
September 4th 2008, 11:32 | Bryan Hubbard
Vitamin D, essential for human health, is more a hormone than a vitamin, and you can indeed get it for free - as it is secreted by the body under the influence of sunlight. This activity involves the skin, the liver, and the kidneys, and about 36 hours after the sun exposure the synthesized vitamin D (known as cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3)is available in the bloodstream. It has multiple effects, one of major ones being that of helping the absorption of calcium from the intestines. The body can store this "vitamin" for several months, so that we can survive the winter with little or no sunshine. Latitude has a lot to do with the availability of sunlight - people below the 40th parallel get better exposure.
Surprising amounts of research are now showing that a deficiency of that vitamin is associated with a large number of disease states, including osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, and many different kinds of cancers including those of the breast, colon, ovary and kidney. Studies have also found that lack of vitamin D is implicated in the tendency of older people to fall. While most people believe that the sun causes cancer, a number of studies have found that there is an inverse relationship between the incidence of cancer and the exposure to sunlight - that is, the more cancer, the less sunlight, and viceversa. Hospital patients who are put in sunny rooms recuperate a lot faster than those in rooms with little daylight.. Sunlight is a nutrient much like food, and the lack of it can give us many problems, both physical (as we just saw) and psychological - lack of sunlight is associated with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and possibly depression.
Many health professionals are seeing an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, even in sunny climates like Hawaii, Florida, and other places where the weather is often bright. What is going on here? Three things: 1) both adults and children stay indoors a great deal of the time, with work, homework, computers, and TV; 2) when outside, people don't necessarily walk to where they're going, but take the car, bus, train, or other covered conveyance, the glass windows of which do not admit the UV rays needed for Vitamin D production; and 3) if they do go out, they cover themselves and their children in abundant sunblock creams. Considering that a sunblock of SPF 8 prevents the body from getting as much as 85% of the normal vitamin D, anything higher means you get NONE.
Any vitamin D in foods? Indeed there is some, mostly in eggs and fish. Fish livers are particularly rich; the classic Northern European source is cod liver oil. Try a couple of teaspoons per day in some juice during the winter months. A little caviar on toast would help, as a tablespoon can give you close to 10% of your requirements. Pricey, though. There are vitamin D precursors in vegetables, notably in parsley and shiitake mushrooms. So make yourself a nice 2-egg omelet (organic eggs, please) with 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 1/4 cup of fresh saut'eed shiitake, and you may get yourself some 115 IU of vitamin D, or close to 30% of your daily requirement. If you're rich, add a tablespoon of black caviar, and you're up to 40%. And it tastes nice too!
Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.
ANNEMARIE COLBIN, Ph.D., CHES, is an award-winning leader in the field of natural health She founded Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts (TM) in New York City in 1977, and is adjunct professor of nutrition at the city's Empire State College. She is the author of four books, including The Book of Whole Meals (Autumn Press, 1979; Ballantine Books, 1983), The Natural Gourmet (Ballantine Books, 1989, 1991), and Food and Healing (Ballantine Books, 1986, 1996). Her website is: www.foodandhealing.com