We live in the Sunshine State, and summer is upon us. Do we get enough sunshine for our health? One would think that as much time as we spend in summer at the beach or pool, or just outside with friends, that we would get plenty of the all-important Vitamin D. But, we may not be correct in that assumption. First of all, why is that particular vitamin so important, and secondly, why are we not getting enough from being outside.
Vitamin D has always been known as “the sunshine vitamin”, and you probably know it’s important for bone health. But there are so many other reasons to include Vitamin D in your healthy goals. While it is not a “cure all” for diseases, a deficiency in Vitamin D is now known to be a contributing factor to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism indicates that there is a distinct correlation between Vitamin D deficiency and obesity, as low Vitamin D levels are prevalent in people with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can be a warning sign of impending heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Now that we have scratched the surface of the importance, let’s look at the reasons why we don’t have enough.
Are you at risk for Vitamin D deficiency? Here’s a short questionnaire:
- Do you use sunscreen?
- Do you take a shower and use soap within 48 hours after sun exposure?
- Do you soak up the sun through a closed glass window?
- Do you drink at least 10 tall glasses of Vitamin D fortified milk daily?
- Is your skin pigment darker than a very fair complexion?
- Do you carry excess weight or fat pads?
While some of these questions may seem a little obvious, they do emphasize the reasons why we as a society, and maybe you, as an individual are low in Vitamin D.
1. Sunscreen is an absolute necessity to help prevent skin cancer, so never stop using it. However, sunscreen can lead to lack of production and absorption. An SPF of 8 can block as much as 95% Vitamin D absorption. Forty percent of your body would have to be exposed to the sun, without sunscreen, between 12 and 2, in order to get absorption of Vitamin D according to VitaminDcouncil.org. Their research indicates that the torso absorbs the most, then arms and legs, lastly hands and face.
2. There have been recent reports indicating that it takes the body up to 48 hours to fully absorb the majority of Vitamin D from the surface of your skin into the bloodstream. Claims have been made that washing your entire body with soap can reduce absorption rates. Water alone does not appear to have that effect. (Natural Society.com)
3. Vitamin D cannot penetrate glass, so if you do your sunbathing on a closed in porch or patio, you are not getting the benefits of the sun.
4. Ten tall glasses of milk per day is a tall order! While you have your Vitamin D for the day, you have increased your intake of sugars and fat.
5. According to Harvard University, people with darker pigmentation or more “melanin” have a great risk of Vitamin D deficiency. This natural sunscreen slows down the absorption of the vitamin from the sun.
6. Excess weight or fat areas decrease the ability to absorb the all important vitamin. May 1st Harvard newsletter indicates that excess weight and lack of Vitamin D go hand in hand.
Now you have reasons you need Vitamin D and reasons you may not have enough. To be sure, have your doctor do a routine blood test and make recommendations for you. Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and easy to take. And the benefits to your health are huge! Enjoy your summer sunshine safely, and improve your overall health and well being with Vitamin D.
César A. Lara, M.D. is a Board Certified family physician and a leading expert in the field of medicine, the treatment of obesity, and weight loss management. For more than 20 years, it has been Dr. Lara’s passion to become a positive force in America’s ever-growing obesity crisis…one patient at a time. Dr. Lara’s dream of helping men and women overcome diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and other chronic conditions related to obesity was realized with the emergence of the César A. Lara, MD; Center for Weight Management as a premier weight loss center in Tampa Bay. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, Dr. Lara is known for his strong personal faith and his generous contributions to the Tampa Bay community. Dr. Lara regularly appears on television as a medical contributor to Brighthouse Network’s Bay News 9 en Español and WTSP-TV Studio 10. He frequently participates in corporate health fairs promoting an active lifestyle and healthy weight loss options. He is the founder of St. Michael’s Free Clinic and Weight Away Tampa Bay, charitable organizations that provide free medical treatment to those who cannot afford it.