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The Good and Not-So-Good Aspects of Vitamin D

But the problem may not be lack of foods, but lack of sunshine. One of the benefits of getting enough sun is that it triggers your body to make vitamin D. Here are some of the lesser-known results of low vitamin D levels:

  • Poor memory related to aging.
  • Blood sugar problems, including type II diabetes and Syndrome X.
  • Breast, prostate and several other types of cancer.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Depression, worse in the winter (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
  • Weak bones.
How Did We Get To This State Of Affairs?

Many people don’t get enough sun on their skin to make vitamin D. We often spend lots of time indoors. And many people follow the well-intended advice to avoid sunshine by always using sun blockers.

The truth is that you only need to avoid excessive sunshine. In other words, the amount that would cause a sunburn. Your skin tone determines how much sunlight is optimal for creating adequate vitamin D. If your ancestors are from very northern climates, you are likely fair skinned and 15-30 minutes of daily sunshine might be sufficient. If your ancestors are from more equatorial areas, you likely have darker skin and may require up to several hours of sun a day. In any case, avoid sunburn.

What Is The Best Way To Get The Right Amounts of Vitamin D?

It is much harder to get adequate sunshine in the winter than in the summer. So if you take supplements of D, that is the best time to take it.

Also, too much vitamin D can lead to problems. Some of these are the same ones associated with too little vitamin D. This makes supplementing in the winter a bit tricky. That’s why the most knowledgeable researchers and clinicians say to monitor your levels of vitamin D if you are going to take a supplement. In particular, they recommend testing levels of 25(OH)D in your blood.

Depending on who you believe, the ideal levels for this will fall between 30 and 50 ng/ml. Another confusing part of this issue is that different sources recommend different levels of vitamin D supplementation. While researching this topic, the best source I found says: “Don’t take vitamin D in amounts beyond the 400-800 IU range (daily) without testing and when you begin to take D test every three or four months the first year and every six months the second and third year to make sure you have the right dose.” (source: Krispin Sullivan, Certified Nutritionist)

The best advice also indicates that if your levels are low, you can take higher doses of vitamin D as a supplement. But if you do, please test every 3 to 4 months to make sure you’re not overdoing it. If you want to learn more, the above link to Krispin Sullivan’s site will give you lots. Also see the Sunarc site. One more great source for this information is Dr. Mercola’s site. Once there, type “vitamin D” in the search box at the top of his home page.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Cara PhillipoOctober 11, 2011, 8:53 pm

    Nice article about the importance of Vitamin D.
    I agree that it is so important to have the levels retested in 3-4 months.
    We have seen so many patients in our practice lately with high vitamin D.
    When 2 years ago almost all were low.

  • Dr. BruceOctober 11, 2011, 9:00 pm

    Cara,

    Very interesting to hear your experience of excess vitamin D levels. Looks like the penduluum has swung the other way, doesn’t it?

    Thanks for sharing that information!

    Dr. Bruce

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