We have talked about Vitamin D before, but we are finding that you can never talk about it too much. Why is it so important for those of us who live in the great North to supplement with Vitamin D?
Let’s begin with some geography. Click on the link below and you will be introduced to a map of Vitamin D deficiencies around the globe. Interestingly, Sweden, much of Thailand, and a small island off of the Southeast coast of China are the only areas in the world with adequate Vitamin D levels among adults; naturally occurring that is, without supplementation. This is thought by some scientists to be due to the great amount of fish in their diet.
Please note: There is no area where the levels are adequate among children, in the world.
Here is the link to the map:
Due to the angle of how the Sun hits earth, and the location of Alaska on the planet, we do not get the strong sunlight necessary to convert or manufacture Vitamin D in our bodies. In the last 10 years researchers have determined that the entire population living above the 30 degree latitude does not get the required sun exposure to manufacture Vitamin D in their bodies, except in summer. In fact, on latitudes 45 degrees and higher the summer sun is too weak to provide optimum levels of Vit D. States along latitude 44 and 45 are Or., Wa., Me., Mi., N.D., Mo., Id., and Mn.. A guide to forming a visual of this in your mind is “if your shadow is longer than you are, you are not producing vitamin D. (1)
In Alaska, it is imperative for our good health to get our levels checked and supplement with Vit D accordingly. This simple test is now being offered at health fairs in Alaska, be sure to ask for your Vitamin D levels to be checked when they administer the blood test.
This test can also be administered through your medical care provider using an inexpensive blood serum test, called 25(OH)D. Depending on the results, he or she may prescribe therapeutic levels of Vit D to bring up your levels. It is not uncommon for people to be put on a once a week dosage of up to 50,000 mg.
because their levels are so low. My levels were checked when I moved to AK, they were very low. Had I had them checked in Kentucky, perhaps I could have prevented breast cancer.
|Vitamin D status by blood levels of 25(OH)D*|
|Vitamin D status||25(OH)D in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL)|
|Deficient||Less than 20 ng/mL|
|Insufficient||20 to 29 ng/mL|
|Sufficient||30 ng/mL or more|
|Potentially harmful||More than 150 ng/mL|
|*25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (vitamin D precursor)Source: Holick MF. “Vitamin D Deficiency,” New England Journal of Medicine (July 19, 2007), Vol. 357, No. 3, pp. 266–80.|
Here are some facts about what Vitamin D does for our bodies:
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin- this means that it can be absorbed and stored for longer periods of time in the body’s fatty tissue and the liver; these include vitamins A,D,E, and K.
Vit D :
- has the properties of both a vitamin and a hormone
- is required for the absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorus
- is necessary for growth- esp. bones and teeth, so esp. in children
- protects against muscle weakness and is involved in the regulation of the heartbeat
- is very important in the prevention of breast, colon and other cancers, and is being researched for it’s anti- cancer properties amongst other cancers
- enhance immunity
- necessary for blood clotting and thyroid function (3)
There are several forms of Vitamin D, including Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), which comes from food sources, Vitamin D3 (cholecalcerferol), which is synthesized in the skin in response to the sun’s ultraviolet rays; and a synthetic form identified as Vitamin D5. Of the three, vitamin D3 is considered the natural form of vit D and was thought to be most active. Newer data shows that D2 is as effective as D3 in maintaining vitamin D levels in the blood. 2
In Fact both forms of Vit D2 and D3 are so important, Dr. Mercola writes in his newsletter that they affect :
- Heart Health
- Cell formation and cell longetivity
- Skin health
- Pancreatic health
- Aging process
- Sleep patterns
- Athletic performance
- Eye health
- Vascular system health
- Respiratory health
- Immune health- most people feel better in summer months- this is why
- Healthy mood and and feelings of well being
- Weight management- including carb and fat metabolism
- Hair and hair follicles (4)
Alaskans, including those with a lack of melanin or individuals with dark skin are especially vulnerable to conditions and cancers whose growth seems to be expedited due to a lack of vitamin D.( As much as 70- 80 percent of Hispanics and African Americans are thought to be deficient in Vit d. ). (5)
It is important to supplement with the right kinds of VitaminD; the Vitamin D we get from food sources and supplements is not active. It requires conversion by the liver, then by the kidneys to make it an active form. This is why people with liver ands kidney disorders are at higher risk for osteoporosis. They need to make sure the Vitamin D they supplement with is Vitamin D2 or D3. It is also important to note that those with lactose intolerance can also be at risk for low levels of Vitamin D and bone disease because of the lack of nutrients and supplements in milk; many dairy products contain added Vitamin D.
When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays, a cholesterol compound in the skin is transformed into a precursor for Vitamin D. In areas below the 45th latitude, exposing the face and arms to the sun for 15 minutes three times a week is an effective way to ensure adequate amounts of Vit d in the body, during summer months. But remember, not for us living on the latitude 61.
Lack of sun exposure would be less of a problem if diet provided adequate Vitamin D. But there aren’t many Vitamin D–rich foods (see chart, below), and you need to eat a lot of them to get 800 to 1,000 IU per day. People who have trouble absorbing dietary fat — such as those with Crohn’s disease or celiac disease — can’t get enough Vitamin D from diet no matter how much they eat (vitamin D requires some dietary fat in the gut for absorption). And people with liver and kidney disease are often deficient in Vitamin D, because these organs are required to make the active form of the vitamin, whether it comes from the sun or from food.
It is also important to note that those with lactose intolerance can also be at risk for low levels of Vitamin D and bone disease because of the lack of nutrients and supplements in milk; many dairy products contain added Vitamin D.
|Selected food sources of vitamin D|
|Food||Vitamin D (IU*)|
|Salmon, 3.5 ounces||360|
|Mackerel, 3.5 ounces||345|
|Tuna, canned, 3.5 ounces||200|
|Orange juice, fortified, 8 ounces||100|
|Milk, fortified, 8 ounces||98|
|Breakfast cereals, fortified, 1 serving||40–100|
|*IU = international unitsSource: Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health|
For these and other reasons, a surprising number of Americans — more than 50% of women and men ages 65
Vit D is available in capsules, caplets, softgels, spray and drops. The minimum dosage you should be getting is 400 iu/day. This is considered by many health professionals as too low.
So, get your Vitamin D levels checked!!
Stay Healthy, Stay Fit!
1) International Osteoporosis Foundation
2) Harvard Health Publications, Jul 19 2007
3) Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
4) Dr. Mercola’s Healthpage
Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC