We all know our skin makes vitamin D during sun exposure, so you’d think that most of us here in Hawaii would have plenty of vitamin D, right?
Wrong. A study done on prototypical surfer-dudes in Honolulu, titled: Low Vitamin D Status Despite Abundant Sun Exposure (Binkely, 2007) found that, amazingly, more than half (51 percent) had less-than-optimal blood levels of vitamin D and were therefore putting their bodies at risk.
At risk for what?
Low vitamin D has been associated with overweight and obesity, as well as a variety of serious medical conditions, including cancer, heart failure, mental illness, multiple sclerosis, and more. And since your immune system and bones need D just to function normally, people with chronically low vitamin D levels definitely have weaker than normal bones and a disordered immune system. All the weight loss doctors I work with put their patients on vitamin D supplements to help support optimal health during the stress of restricting calories.
How could it be that people getting so much sun still don’t have enough vitamin D in their bodies?
It could be that their skin is unable to metabolize cholesterol into vitamin D properly due to a grossly suboptimal diet.
What’s more, their diets are probably lacking in natural vitamin D since only animals that have the opportunity to spend most of their life in the sun eating their natural forage accumulate appreciable amounts in their tissues. For instance, while vitamin D is abundant in the ocean ecosystem, it is not present in the pelleted diets fed to farmed fish and shellfish, so these animals contain as little as ten percent of the D in their wild-caught cousins.
The same applies to industrially produced chickens, pigs, turkeys, cows, etc., as well as to eggs and dairy.
If the surfers were vegans, they wouldn’t have been getting any D from their diet because plants do not produce vitamin D.
So what about fortified milk? Most milk isn’t fortified with natural vitamin D, but rather a less-costly fungal product called vitamin D2, which isn’t metabolized the same as natural vitamin D and does not have the same beneficial effects.
Even supplements may not give us the D we need. About half of the people I am currently treating for vitamin D deficiency were taking over the counter supplements when I found their levels to be low.
Given the changes in our diets and lifestyles, it’s no wonder vitamin D deficiency is at an all-time high. It makes good sense, these days, to get yourself tested.
If it turns out you’re low, then you and your doctor can come up with a game plan which may include a dietary program, lifestyle changes, or even a prescription that can effectively bump your levels into the optimal range.
A lot of scientists are singling the praises of D, and for good reason. Getting your D up to optimal levels not only helps steer you clear of a terrifying health wipeout, but encourages healthier eating and more outside exercise. Catch that healthy wave and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world.