Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

Note: Recently I received a newsletter entitled Consumer Reports on Health, a supplement to their magazine. The lead article is “The ABCs of Vitamin D.” My posting is an excerpt from this important article. Sentences in italics are direct quotes. I highlighted important items in red.

Vitamin D has been in the limelight for some time, yet there are still some unanswered questions, such as: How much do we need? and What are the best ways to obtain it? According to one recent study, 77% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. The article’s information box is entitled: Are you D-ficient? And lists the following risk factors for low levels of vitamin D:

1. Being middle-aged, dark-skinned, or overweight (or obese, see below).
2. Having conditions that interfere with absorption, such as celiac disease or gastric bypass surgery.
3. Taking medications that reduce vitamin D blood levels, such as Alli and Xenical for weight loss.
4. Having a medical history that includes kidney or liver disease, multiple sclerosis, thyroid problems or osteoporosis.

Why does being obese interfere with vitamin D absorption? Simply, the excess fat holds onto vitamin D, making this nutrient less available to the body. Studies suggest (this) vitamin plays an important role in reducing the risk of a host of illnesses, notably osteoporosis, and possibly certain cancers and autoimmune, infectious, and cardiovascular diseases.

The “experts” claim we need 800-1,000 international units (IU) daily, which is quite a bit higher than the current dietary reference intake (DRI) of 200-600 IU daily for adults. The article claims this is too low.

Where we live also influences how much we absorb. If you are in the sun for an early morning walk or one in late afternoon, the sun may not be strong enough to stimulate production of vitamin D. Also, sunscreen and protective clothing can also shut down your body’s production of this vitamin. Skin cancer is a big concern, so many public-health groups discourage any unprotected skin exposure.

Personal Note: I don’t agree with this last statement. Many years ago I read about sunscreen blocking the absorption of vitamin D, so I use it very sparingly. I don’t sunbathe, and usually swim laps and leave the sunny pool area and head for the shade. ES

Some experts recommend exposing bare arms and legs to the sun at midday for a few minutes (15 or so) twice each week during late spring and summer, because our bodies can store vitamin D for several months. Since those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere may not receive enough sun during the winter months, “stockpiling” in the sunny months makes sense.

The article notes that we in all probability we cannot absorb enough vitamin D from food. Fatty fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines are usually near the top of the list. Also, dairy products and some other prepared foods are fortified with small IUs of vitamin D, but … most people don’t eat enough of these foods to consistently cover all their requirements.

As a summary of the research, the article lists six areas in which vitamin D does show disease-fighting promise: bone health, muscular strength, cancer, cardiovascular disease, auth-immune diseases and cognitive function, all of which
are common concerns of those of us past 50.

Check with your doctor if you are not sure you are absorbing enough vitamin D from the sun or food. (I do take vitamin D capsules daily, even in summer, since I am not a sun worshipper.)

This article appeared in the November 2009 newsletter. Their website is This link will take you to a similar article:











7 thoughts on “Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

  1. Heya i will be initially the following. I uncovered that board and I believe that it is actually practical & it helped me to outside very much. I’m hoping to make available another thing returning in addition to assist other folks that you helped me to.

  2. Sorry I did not read and respond to this sooner. My naturopath Dr. Pais in Williamsport is a strong proponent of Vit D to prevent major illnesses, and advocates having a Vit D blood test (25OH). He has
    also written an E-book on Vit D.


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