The Sunshine Vitamin
With the growing obsession with having fair skin, there very few who dare go out into the sun. Little do most people know (and many may have already forgotten) that limited sun exposure reduces vitamin D production in the skin. This much was discussed by Dr. Sandra Tankeh-Torres of Cardinal Santos Hospital and visiting physician from University of Birmingham Medical School in London, Prof. David John Hosking.
“Vitamin D is a fat-soluble substance present in salmon, mackerel, sardines, and cod liver oil; fortified foods including milk, breakfast cereals, and some juices; and vitamin supplements. It can also be produced in the skin during sun exposure,” tells Dr. Torres.
“Vitamin D is not bioactive and must be metabolized to the hormonally active form. Once formed after exposure of the skin to sunlight or absorbed after intake of food or supplements, it is transported to the liver and kidney and other sites to metabolize,” explains Prof. Hosking
Sadly, a high prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy was seen across all geographic regions. In an international epidemiologic study of 2598 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, many of the women had vitamin D inadequacy. Moreover, the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy was at least 53 percent in all five regions involved in the study and was highest in the Middle East with 81.8 percent and Asia with 71.4 percent.
“The human body needs an adequate amount of vitamin D to absorb calcium to promote bone health. And bone loss, while taken for granted by many, is a serious health concern for both men and women. While calcium is vital for bone health, vitamin D is as crucial to the balancing act of bone resorption and formation,” tells Dr. Torres.
However, vitamin D’s benefits may go beyond the protection of bone and muscle. New research suggests that it may also guard against an array of diseases such as: macular degeneration, an eye condition that leads to loss of vision; cancer of the breast, colon, pancreas and prostate; diabetes; multiple sclerosis; rheumatoid arthritis, and hypertension.
“In the US, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D for adults over 50 has been upped from 400 to 800 IU/day to 800 to 1000 IU/day to help maintain vitamin D at optimal level. Studies show that vitamin D supplementation with or without calcium supplementation can reduce the risk of fracture in men and women over the age of 60. Studies also showed that vitamin D improved muscle function and reduced the frequency of falls among the elderly,” relates Prof. Hosking.
Finally, Dr. concludes, “Ensuring adequate intake of vitamin D is a fundamental component of the treatment of osteoporosis. Vitamin D promotes normal bone mineralization and bone density by increasing intestinal calcium absorption and helping regulate bone turnover.”