Our Nutrition world is abuzz this morning with the “Sunshine Vitamin”! The IOM has released updated recommendations, reminding us that both Calcium and Vitamin D play an important role in bone health. Due to emerging research and changing lifestyles, the committee now recommends getting 600 International Units (IUs) per day. People 71 and older may need up to 800 IUs per day.
Why is it called the Sunshine Vitamin?
The body produces Vitamin D when exposed to natural sunlight. It’s a fascinating process that starts on the skin’s surface and ends inside the Kidney. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with depression – while the jury is still out on that one, it may be more related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), rare sun exposure during certain months and/or due to lifestyle, resulting in decreased natural production of the Vitamin.
Those At Risk for deficiency, or producing less natural Vit. D, include the following: darker skin tones (absorb less UV rays), low-sunlight environments (for example: I’ve lived in New Mexico & central Pennsylvania – the first sees the sun ~300 days per year, the latter sees it less than 100), and older populations (usually spend less time outside).
Another factor that may be decreasing our overall production is the increased awareness of skin cancer and its relationship with sun exposure. We lather on the sunscreen, wear hats & cover up to avoid it, but that’s also reducing our ability to create the vitamin.
Where else is Vitamin D found?
The few foods that naturally contain it include tuna, salmon, and mackerel – cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms in smaller amounts. Milk, breakfast cereals, and some brands of cheese and orange juice are now fortified with it.
If you consume any of the above on a regular basis, and let your skin soak up the sun at least once per day, its more than likely you’re getting all the D you need!
Questions? Concerns? Theories? Have you thought about this sunshine vitamin before today?