New evidence shows that people with higher levels of vitamin D experienced a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University just released its study linking low levels of vitamin D to diabetes in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The authors of the study concluded that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels in the blood may be a type 2 diabetes prevention strategy.
Other recent research found that vitamin D plays a critical role in activating the body’s immune system against infectious diseases like the flu. Researchers noted that a deficiency in this important vitamin, which actually acts more like a hormone in your body, may result in a greater risk of contracting flu viruses. Additional research has linked low amounts of vitamin D to autoimmune disorders, cancer, depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
Vitamin D also plays essential roles in supporting our energy and balancing our moods. It also helps to build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and it supports the health of the thyroid gland-a butterfly gland in the throat that helps maintain a healthy weight, balanced metabolism, and energy levels.
While moderate sunlight exposure is the best source of vitamin D, many people incorrectly think that a small amount of sunshine exposure daily is sufficient to meet their vitamin D requirements. However, after your skin is exposed to sunlight, it takes about 48 hours to convert it into vitamin D. During that time, the sunlight-initiated precursors to vitamin D can be washed off with soap and water.
So, if you scrub your skin with soap in the shower, your body will not convert most of your skin’s sun exposure to vitamin D. I’m not suggesting that you avoid showering after sun exposure rather that you primarily soap the areas that don’t usually see the light of day and wash the newly tanned ones exclusively with water. Avoid excessive sun exposure since there are no health benefits of sunburn.
Some vitamin D deficiency symptoms include: bow legs or “knock knees,” burning in mouth or throat, constipation, dental cavities or cracked teeth, insomnia, joint pains or bone pains, muscle cramps, nearsightedness (myopia-can’t see distances), nervousness, osteomalacia, osteoporosis, frequent colds or flu, and poor bone development.
Vitamin D is also found in fish and fish oils, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and many types of sprouts. People with low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) tend to have difficulty with vitamin D absorption and as a result, may have higher needs for this nutrient.
Most nutrition experts agree that the current RDA of 200 IU is insufficient and that the minimum needs to be raised to 1000 IU, while many health experts recommend supplementation of 2000 to 4000 IU daily. However, you should always consult a qualified health professional before supplementing with vitamin D since excessive amounts can build up in the body creating a potential risk for toxicity and is contraindicated for some health conditions.
Adapted with permission of the author from the upcoming book, The Phytozyme Cure (Wiley, December 2010) by Michelle Schoffro Cook. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook. A complete list of references is published in The Phytozyme Cure.