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The Sunshine Vitamin – Vitamin D

Seriously, is there a need to slap on SPF 100, just because you are walking to the morning market and back?

If you ask me, I think morning sun is great for the body, and trying to cut out all possibly sunrays reaching the skin is just dumb.


“i use SPF30 sunblock when I am at the pool”

Of course I use sunblock (SPF30) during the afternoons, and when I am down at the pool, but if I am out and about running around in the mornings, the truth is, I don’t wear it. Some might say “Skin Cancer” but I know of worse effects of getting no sun whatsoever.

Yup. It’s called Vitamin D deficiency.

Sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is unique because, given sufficient sunlight, your body can synthesize all it needs of this fat-soluble nutrient. In fact, it could be argued that vitamin D is technically not a nutrient – it is synthesized and functions like a hormone, and it is not always necessary in the diet. When the ultraviolet rays of the sun strike the skin, they alter a precursor derived from cholesterol, converting it into vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health and may help reduce cancer risk. In children, it promotes bone development and growth. In adults, it is necessary for bone maintenance. In the elderly, vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures. In addition, supplemental vitamin D can reduce the risk of falls in the elderly. Although severe vitamin D deficiency in children and adults is rare, groups at risk for vitamin D deficiency include individuals with limited sunlight exposure.

Like other vitamins, a lack of dietary vitamin D (coupled with minimal sun exposure) will cause a deficiency.

Ten compounds, called vitamin D1 through D10, exhibit antirachitic properties; that is, they prevent a childhood bone disease called rickets. The most important of these compounds are D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Ergocalciferol is found exclusively in plant foods. Cholecalciferol is found in animal foods (eggs and fish oils), but most is synthesized in the skin.

So, what are the functions of Vitamin D…?

In the skin, UV radiation from the sun converts a cholesterol derivative (7-dehydrocholesterol) to cholecalciferol, which then enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver. The liver also receives dietary cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol from chylomicrons. In the liver, cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol are converted into calcidiol and then sent to the kidneys. The kidneys perform the final step – the formation of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 [1,25(OH)2D3], also called calcitriol. 1,25(OH)2D3 is the active form of vitamin D, and the body derives about 90 percent of its 1,25(OH)2D3 from the cholecalciferol synthesized in the skin.

Vitamin D is a regulatory compound. Although its primary role is to regulate blood calcium levels, it also is important for regulating cell differentiation and growth. Research shows that vitamin D may be protective against colorectal cancer. Investigators also are looking for ways vitamin D and its derivatives might treat other conditions of abnormal cell growth, such as psoriasis and cancers of the blood, lung, and cervix. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

And finally, a lack of sunshine has been correlated to depression as well, so the next time you think of reaching for your sunblock, for just a short stroll outside in the mornings, think again. By all means use SPF30 during the day, but not to the extent of covering up all day or you might miss the sunshine vitamin!



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