You Are My Sunshine

You Are My Sunshine

Florida calls itself the Sunshine State … California also falls into that category (well, usually). Washington state … not so much. I do miss the California sunshine since moving north … even if it’s not pouring rain, the “gray days” of winter seem neverending. Life here has caused me to pay attention to a number of things I once took for granted … one being my vitamin D intake.

Its “liquid sunshine” not withstanding, I love the Pacific Northwest with its clean air and water, evergreen trees, and snow-covered mountains. It has wonderfully mild summers with (surprise!) plenty of sunshine and temps that rarely top 85 degrees, at least here in Western Washington … hot enough to grow a healthy crop of tomatoes in my garden without causing me to keel over from the heat. But winters? You must be kidding.

One of the main ways to get our daily dose of vitamin D is thru our skin via sunshine … about 15 minutes daily up here where the sunlight is weaker and a bit less in sunnier climes. So during the winter I can either 1) scurry to the deserts of California or Arizona or 2) get my vitamin D through food sources and nutritional supplements. Although salmon is king up here in the PacNW, I confess that I don’t eat salmon (or mackerel, or sardines), so I get my vitamin D through daily doses of high-quality Omega-3 fish oil capsules, a calcium supplement containing D3, and fortified soy milk.

In a well-researched article, Jane Brody, health columnist for the New York Times, notes: “In addition to fortified drinks like milk, soy milk and some juices, the limited number of vitamin D food sources includes oily fish like salmon, mackerel, bluefish, catfish, sardines and tuna, as well as cod liver oil and fish oils. The amount of vitamin D in breakfast cereals is minimal at best. As for supplements, vitamin D is found in prenatal vitamins, multivitamins, calcium-vitamin D combinations and plain vitamin D. Check the labels and select brands that contain vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, because D2, or ergocalciferol, is 25 percent less effective (than D3).” *

Her article goes on to state: “… a growing legion of medical researchers have raised strong doubts about the adequacy of currently recommended levels of intake, from birth through the sunset years. The researchers maintain, based on a plethora of studies, that vitamin D levels considered adequate to prevent bone malformations like rickets in children are not optimal to counter a host of serious ailments that are now linked to low vitamin D levels.”

A team of nutrition experts noted in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “randomized trials using the currently (govt) recommended intakes of 400 I.U. vitamin D a day have shown no appreciable reduction in fracture risk.”

“In contrast,” they continued, “trials using 700 to 800 I.U. found less fracture incidence, with and without supplemental calcium. This change may result from both improved bone health and reduction in falls due to greater muscle strength.” * So it sounds like we’re not just talking about women and children’s needs here … if you aspire to be a jock, take your vitamin D and you’ll have more bone AND muscle mass.

In addition to the benefits to bone protection, in animal studies vitamin D has been demonstrated to strikingly reduce tumor growth, and other studies have shown it to be a factor in reducing the incidences of M.S. and diabetes in humans.

So get out there in the sunshine and soak up your vitamin D, everyone. I’ll just continue taking my supplements and dream of California.

Yours in health …

*Personal Health, “An Oldie Vies for Nutrient of the Decade” by Jane Brody; New York Times; February 19, 2008