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Vitamin D


It's not really a vitamin

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Vitamin D


It's not really a vitamin

UNDERSTANDING THE WAY NATURE INTENDED YOU TO GET VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin but a hormone: A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of cells and organs. Vitamin D is naturally created in adequate quantities by almost all mammals when exposed to sunlight. In contrast, vitamins are organic compounds that cannot be created in sufficient quantities by the organism itself, and must be obtained from outside sources in the diet.
The “sunshine vitamin” got its name because large quantities of vitamin D are made in the skin when exposed to sunshine. A very small section of the ultraviolet range of sunlight called UVB is responsible for all vitamin D synthesis in the skin. During sun exposure, a natural chemical in the body (called 7-dehydrocholesterol) is converted to vitamin D3 in the upper layers of the skin.

 

FROM SUN TO CELL

Nature has created a perfect time-release system for vitamin D: The vitamin D made during a single exposure to the sun is delivered to the bloodstream over a two-week period. It is a very efficient system that research has shown generates over 90% of all vitamin D in our body. Nature also instilled in us an unconscious desire to go in the sun for proper health. Endorphins are made in the skin alongside vitamin D, making us feel good and reinforcing this beneficial behavior.

 

NATURAL REGULATION

Nature provided two forms of regulation to this system to prevent overexposure and overproduction: The skin has the ability to create a suntan that works as a natural SPF to prevent overexposure (sunburn) and slow vitamin D photosynthesis during intense UV exposure. In addition, the skin has a natural feedback system, called photo-degradation, which destroys excess vitamin D in the skin after higher levels have been attained. As with any hormone, endogenous regulation is critical for your body to function properly.

 

THE MASTER HORMONE

It is estimated that 3% of the human genome is regulated by vitamin D. Like many hormones, it has profound effects on systemic health and wellness. Vitamin D receptors are located in all the organs and nearly every tissue in the human body. Aside from regulating calcium metabolism for proper bone health, this hormone has been shown to positively impact soft tissue metabolism as well. The abundance of receptors throughout the human body illustrates the impact that vitamin D has on innumerable aspects of our health and function.

 

"Nature does nothing uselessly" - Aristotle

 

DEFICIENCY EPIDEMIC

Vitamin D deficiency occurs at blood levels < 20ng/ml, the minimum level required for proper bone health. Insufficiency (hypovitaminosis D) is defined as blood level < 30ng/ml, the minimum required for soft tissue metabolism health. Scientists believe optimum levels are probably closer to 60ng/ml. Studies indicate hypovitaminosis D is an epidemic, with greater than ¾ of the population presenting insufficient levels of this essential hormone. Why do we have this epidemic?

 
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THE PROBLEM:


Lack of sunlight is causing Vitamin D deficiency

THE PROBLEM:


Lack of sunlight is causing Vitamin D deficiency

 

MODERN LIFESTYLE

After hundreds of thousands of years we have suddenly, in only the last couple hundred years, transitioned from an agrarian or nomadic society through the industrial revolution and into the computer age. Nature expected us to live our lives outside but in the modern world we work and play indoors. Our lifestyle simply doesn’t allow for enough sun exposure.

 

SUN AVOIDANCE

Busy schedules in our modern lifestyle don’t allow for midday sun exposure with minimal clothing. To prevent premature aging and risk of skin cancer we actively avoid direct sun exposure. Cosmetic and sunscreen manufactures put SPF in all kinds of skin products and many people use these products daily. Sunscreen use stops all vitamin D production in the skin. Nature expected we would expose large amounts of our skin to direct sunlight in the middle of the day without SPF.

 
 

LOCATION ON THE EARTH

Sunlight near the equator provides high UVB content that is good for making vitamin D in the skin year round. As people migrated to locations on the earth farther from the equator, less sunlight was available. The earth’s atmosphere functions like a filter to absorb more UVB radiation when sunlight passes through at larger angles. The sun is highest in the sky during the summer months close to midday, reducing the amount of atmosphere to filter vitamin D producing UVB. Population studies show that vitamin D levels decrease as distance from the equator increases. Nature developed lighter skins types to help humans absorb more vitamin D in less intense sunlight.

 
 

SKIN COLOR

The shade of a person’s skin is determined by the amount of melanin (photo-protective pigment) in the skin. Darker skin contains more melanin than lighter skin, providing more protection from sunburn, but conversely requiring more sunlight to produce the same amount of vitamin D. Studies show vitamin D deficiency in the US is most prevalent in African Americans (82%) and Hispanics (69%). Dark skin allows populations that live in intense sun exposure to survive. In the last 500 years or so, advances in navigation and transportation have allowed peoples with dark skin to migrate rapidly to places with much lower UV intensity. Nature expected humans to stay close to where they were born for generations.

 
 

VITAMIN D OPTIMIZATION

Although there is no medically defined “optimum” level of vitamin D, there is a general consensus in the scientific community that the optimum range is between 30 – 60ng/ml. More importantly, the majority of experts agree that a healthy and safe upper limit for serum vitamin D is 90ng/ml. The rational way to determine the optimum vitamin D range is by studying natural vitamin D synthesis: Studies on African tribes living much as they have for thousands of years with year-round exposure to tropical sunlight show naturally occurring vitamin D levels average 60ng/ml. Sunlight produced vitamin D has been proven plateau in the suspected optimal range far before overdose. This is the vitamin D level nature intended for optimum health.

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Supplements are not solving the problem

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Supplements are not solving the problem

 

DIETARY VITAMIN D

Very few foods contain significant amounts of vitamin D. Fatty fish like Salmon or Herring have the highest concentration in whole food form, but you would need to consume 11 pounds of fish per week to maintain sufficient vitamin D levels. Given that such a whole food diet is clearly impractical, fortified foods like milk were created. However, it would take 270 glasses of fortified milk per week to do the trick. Supplements are currently the only option for raising vitamin D to acceptable levels, but clearly this not the way nature intended humans to get their vitamin D. The long term impacts of supplements are understudied, underestimated, and underreported.

 
 

SUPPLEMENTS CAN BE DANGEROUS

The quality and quantity of sunlight limits vitamin D synthesis in the skin to about 5 months of the year for much of the world’s surface. Once again, nature provided a solution to this problem by making vitamin D fat soluble. Our bodies were designed to make large amounts of vitamin D during warmer months, store the excess in fat cells throughout the body and then slowly release it during the colder months. Taking vitamin D supplement pills in high quantities can overload the storage system, creating dangerously toxic levels of vitamin D that can cause tissue and organ damage. Taking a pill is not the way nature intended humans to get vitamin D.