The D in Longevity

Vitamin D has been a hot topic that past couple of years.  Doctors and nutritionists are recommending large doses of this previously ignored vitamin.  So let’s look at why and how much is enough.

The why is because research has linked deficiency of vitamin D with heart disease, cancers, osteomalacia, Alzheimer’s and dementia.  It is also required for calcium to be absorbed into the bones rather than resting in tissue.  Of course the higher density of calcium in bones means less chance of broken hips or other bones as we age.  High calcium left in the tissues also causes leg cramps and misleads diagnosis on blood calcium lab tests.

Recommended dosages are all over the place.  My nutrition classes taught that 200 to 400 IU, or 800 IU if elderly or lived in the far north, was recommended.  My patients have come to me with recommended dosages of 4,000 IU and more daily from their MD’s or nutritionists.  My recommendation is to concentrate on getting D naturally through daily sunlight and healthy foods.

Fifteen (15) minutes a day is all it takes to get the minimum dosage needed.  This also means it is absorbed through the skin instead of the gut which starts a chemical chain reaction where the body can use vitamin D the way it needs to.  I can’t recommend enough a 20-30 minute walk in the sun.  It has so many more benefits than just exercise.  As for sunscreen, no I do not recommend it.  Your skin needs to be exposed to direct sunlight to get the healing chemicals it needs.  That doesn’t mean I don’t ever recommend sunscreen.  Just be smart.  Don’t go out at noon in the south and bake.  If you burn easily even in morning or evening light, then go out for shorter periods until your skin can take 20 minutes.  I live in Texas so in the summer I can only stand the sun for about 5 minutes during the hottest part of the day so I may go out more often for less time.

Foods are also a good source.  Not as good as sunlight because again the chemical reaction isn’t the same from your gut as your skin, but it can provide vitamin D for some of the body’s requirements. It is found in old water fish, egg yolks, and green leafy vegetables.

If you are getting enough sun, then it really isn’t recommended that you use supplements.  That is of course if you don’t have symptoms such as bone pain or weak muscles.  Then you should see a professional to find out what dosage, if necessary, is appropriate for you.  A 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that only 8% of people in the US are truly at risk for deficiency.  In fact excess can cause calcium deposition in the kidneys or other organs and may contribute to atherosclerosis, kidney stones, and increased magnesium absorption.

Take a deep breath of fresh air as you enjoy that daily walk in the sun.

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