This will be my first foray into the area of health and fitness but, before you read on, I have a few disclaimers. First, I am not a doctor, but I will report the opinions of doctors and findings of researchers. Second, while I consider myself healthy, there are still many things I need to do to improve my own health so I am not preaching here. Third, I am not the most fit person in the world but I am working on it. Finally, I read extensively about health and fitness but that does not make me an expert on the topic. I resemble the joke about the man who joined the fitness club and after six months was disappointed he had not lost any weight. Then his wife pointed out that he actually had to go to the club for that to happen. Who knew?
Three years ago, while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas (I know, name dropper) I read a book I really liked by the famous TV personality, Dr. Mehmet Oz, "YOU, The Owner's Manual". It was quite an eye-opener so on subsequent vacations I also read "YOU, On a Diet", "YOU, Staying Young" (one of my favorites) and "YOU, Staying Beautiful". O.K., so the last one was kind of a stretch for me but never give up...right?
Anyway, one of the things mentioned in every one of these books was the importance of Vitamin D (technically D3 is not a vitamin but a hormone....who knew?) in maintaining just about every bodily function in both animals and in humans. It regulates and facilitates critical aspects of every cell, most organs and most systems that keep us alive and kicking. AND, research has shown that most Americans are woefully deficient in this critical vitamin. Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin, is acquired through the food we eat like most other vitamins but Vitamin D is the only vitamin we manufacture ourselves. When our skin is exposed to sunlight it triggers the mechanisms in our body to produce this important ingredient. We can also increase our Vitamin D through supplements.
More than a century ago, doctors found that Vitamin D deficiency was the principle cause of rickets, a now virtually extinct ailment that deteriorates the bones. Vitamin D was then mandated to be added to everything from milk, cheese and margarine to breakfast cereal and, thanks to these fortified products, rickets was eradicated. End of story. Vitamin D went back into obscurity.
Then, in our history, we transitioned from an agricultural society to a manufacturing society. Jobs moved indoors from the farm to the factory, from getting plenty of sun to getting very little. Other ailments started to rise. And then, we discovered sunscreen. Doctors and dermatologists embraced this new protective device to lessen the chances for developing skin cancer and we have been slathering it on ever since. Now don't get me wrong, sunscreen is a good thing. If we had had it back when I was frying my body on a regular basis 55 years ago growing up in the intense California sun, I wouldn't be visiting my dermatologist every six months today keeping skin cancer at bay. But, like most things Americans do, we have gone overboard in protecting ourselves from sun damage and now Vitamin D deficiency is at critical, if not epidemic, levels once again.
I am just finishing up reading a new book by Dr. Soram Khalasa called "The Vitamin D Revolution". In it he echos what I read in the Dr. Oz books, we need to get unprotected sun exposure on the majority of our skin for at least 15 minutes each day AND take supplements to bring our Vitamin D levels up to normal. Why? Because Vitamin D deficiency has now been linked, through numerous clinical trials and significant research studies to be at the heart of dozens of health issues from premature aging, fatigue, chronic pain, insulin-dependent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autism, common cold, influenza and, most importantly, cancer of the breast, colon, lung and prostate.
The most researched of the cancers as it relates to Vitamin D is breast cancer. Several of the conclusions from the most recent large studies were:
* By combining sun exposure, supplements and Vitamin D-rich foods between 70,000 and 150,000 new cases of breast cancer and 37,500 deaths from breast cancer could be prevented each year.
* Women diagnosed with breast cancer who had deficient levels of Vitamin D at the time of their diagnosis were 73 % more likely to die from the cancer versus those women with sufficient levels of Vitamin D.
* Women who started with normal levels of Vitamin D when diagnosed with breast cancer had an 83 % chance of surviving without further spread of cancer over the course of the study.
* It was projected that a Vitamin D blood level of 52ng/ml would reduce the risk of breast cancer by 50% from the risk that is present when Vitamin D blood levels are less than 13 ng/ml. (Note: To achieve this level of Vitamin D would require an estimated daily dose of 4,000 IU either from supplements, sun exposure or a combination of both).
Dr. Khalasa, and a rapidly growing number of physicians and specialists, now believe the current FDA minimum daily allowance for Vitamin D is woefully inadequate. Combined with our indoor, sunless lifestyle, Vitamin D deficiency is common in over 75 % of Americans, a level of 20 ng/ml or less. He believes the optimal level should be established at 40 - 70 ng/ml.
Bottom line: Have your Vitamin D3 levels checked by your doctor with a simple and inexpensive blood test (covered by most insurance plans and by Medicare) and follow his advice for getting additional sun exposure or taking supplements.
Or, become a nudist. Either way, you will enjoy life more and get the Vitamin D you need. Who knew?