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It is often dubbed “the sunshine vitamin.” But Vitamin D is considered more of a pro-hormone than a vitamin. Anyway you call it, there are plenty of us who are deficient in this most needed nutrient. Research has found that most people are deficient in vitamin D. Even if you are a young person you can easily have low blood levels of this all important vitamin.  "Why is that?" you may ask.

You have probably heard that 15 – 30 minutes in the sun will be enough to produce vitamin D for your body. But clinical studies show that our ability to produce/absorb/utilize sunlight and vitamin D is genetically variable. For example, in northern California a large number of people tested during winter months had serum vitamin D deficiency (less than 20 ng/ml) or insufficiency (20-32 ng/ml).

Common factors that contribute to vitamin D deficiency can include the use of sunscreens that block vitamin D production, swimming or showering before laying in the sun, which washes away natural oils needed for absorption. Other factors include cloudy weather, not enough exposure due to clothing, and the time of the year. For instance, if you live north of the equator (or much above Miami in the U.S.A) and it’s not June, July, or August then you are at risk for a vitamin D deficiency.  Being low on other minerals and vitamin C have been found to deter vitamin D absorption as well.

This problem increases dramatically in persons living at latitudes more distant from the equator and in persons living in all US latitudes with darker skins. In fact in Texas there has been an increase in the number of children with African or Hispanic heritage suffering from rickets. Darker skin contains more melanin, which equates to greater protection against ultraviolet radiation exposure. Because of this protective effect, people of color must spend more time in the sun to make vitamin D compared to those with lighter skin colors.

Vitamin D is needed for bone health.  Rickets, mentioned above,  is a condition that affects the development of bones in children. It causes soft weak bones, which can become bowed or curved. It’s a condition that only develops in children. It’s most commonly diagnosed in children between the age of 3 and 18 months.

The most common cause of rickets is an extreme lack of vitamin D or a lack of calcium, or both together. The link between vitamin D and rickets has been known for many years and is well understood by doctors and scientists. Rickets can be effectively treated with vitamin D supplements. As well as giving vitamin D, doctors may also prescribe calcium supplements to treat rickets.

You probably already understand that calcium is good for your bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Calcium is a building block of bone, and it helps maintain bone strength throughout your lifetime. But calcium requires enough Vitamin D to reach its full bone-building potential. Calcium and vitamin D work together to protect your bones. Calcium helps build and maintain bones, while vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb calcium. So even if you’re taking in enough calcium, it could be useless if you’re deficient in vitamin D. Here are some good food sources of vitamin D.

Good sources of vitamin D include:

• Vitamin D-fortified milk

• Egg yolks

• Fatty fish

It is difficult to get the recommended 50,000 international units (I.U.s) of vitamin D3 per week from your diet alone. You may want to take a daily multi-vitamin or vitamin D3 supplements. There are also calcium supplements available that contain vitamin D.

For people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, research has found that vitamin D3 helps tremendously. Those who experience SAD do so in the winter months when there is less direct sunlight or when they live in climates that are overcast or cloudy for long periods of time during the year.

Of particular interest is the research that suggests vitamin D3 supplementation reduces or even eliminates depression. There are different varieties of depression, but some people report that, under a doctor’s supervision, vitamin D3, in adequate amounts, has eliminated their depression and anxiety. Always, consult your doctor or health provider. Many health providers are aware of the research on Vitamin D3 and its positive effects on depression. The dosage frequently seen in the medical literature is 50,000 .IU.’s per week.  One can spread that same dosage out over the week at 5,000 – 7,000 I.U.’s per day.

What a wonderful natural alternative to anti-depressants for some people! Again, always, consult with your doctor.

Not only is the research there to show the link between Vitamin D3 and depression, but personal stories as well. I personally know people whose lives have been changed by it. Here is a link to an online site of a person I do not personally know, but her story is similar to many I have heard from people I trust.

An important note here; always consult with your doctor or health care provider. Read the disclaimer at the end of this article.

Here is another link to an article on the Vitamin D council website. This site summarizes a large amount of the relevant vitamin D research. The references to research and peer reviewed articles are at the end of their article.

The vitamin D council website is very informative. I highly recommend visiting their Q and A page. They recommend 5,000 ius per day. They discuss vitamin D blood level testing as well.

It takes quite a bit of time in sunlight, at the equator, to absorb adequate amounts of Vitamin D through the skin. When UVB rays hit your skin your body begins the process of converting a pro-hormone in the skin into vitamin D. In this process, a form of cholesterol called 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC), naturally found in your skin, absorbs the UVB radiation and gets converted into cholecalciferol. Cholecalciferol is the previtamin form of D3. Next, the previtamin travels through your bloodstream to your liver, where the body begins to metabolize it, turning it into hydroxyvitamin D, which is also known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D. The kidneys then convert the 25(OH)D into dihydroxyvitamin D, also called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)2D -- this is the hormone form of vitamin D your body can use.*

Vitamin D research suggests that it may have an important role in many aspects of human health, from bone fractures to prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular problems, and diabetes.  I may write more on these topics in the future.

Wishing You Health and Happiness!

Jane Gangitano, M.S.,CNS


The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for general information for the reader. The contents of this web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice, diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.

Some links within this website may lead to other websites, including those operated and maintained by third parties. I include these links solely as a convenience to you, and the presence of such a link does not imply a responsibility for the linked site or an endorsement of the linked site, its operator, or its contents (exceptions may apply).

*(sources: the George Mateljan Foundation, Holick)