Sunday, December 20, 2009


Nature’s design of the human body is no more evident than in the function of Vitamin D. Classically considered a vitamin, it also functions much like a hormone. While chemically similar to a hormone in structure, Vitamin D is not excreted from a gland into the blood. Instead, it is miraculously synthesized in the skin from exposure to the sun. What a beautifully designed system!

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Soram Khalsa on my Blog Talk radio show ( Dr. Khalsa is a wonderful, Integrative Physician who recently published a book on Vitamin D called “The Vitamin D Revolution.” His book offers an eloquent and concise overview of the many benefits of Vitamin D as essential to an optimal health program. I wanted to summarize some of the many health benefits of Vitamin D in this post.

Vitamin D serves a variety of functions in the body. A deficiency can be associated with numerous ailments. Though rarely encountered today, the best known is rickets, a metabolic bone disease. Less well-known problems caused by Vitamin D deficiency include increased risk of heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, osteopenia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disease, flu, and depression.

Vitamin D deficiency is more common in higher latitudes especially during winter when there is less sunlight. Curiously, these sun-deprived regions also have statistically higher rates of depression, alcoholism, and even diabetes. In addition, we now have also incurred a greater rate of vitamin D deficiency disorders because of our increasing concern about sun damage skin problems such as skin cancer and aging.

The intense concern that our skin needs protection from the perceived harmful rays of the sun is responsible for contributing to many degenerative health conditions. While this approach to “skin care” serves to diminish the risk of some dermatological problems, it can create a new host of other illnesses—all related to Vitamin D deficiency. Another problem results from our industrialized society that requires us to work more indoors. This leads to people getting less sun exposure even in the lower latitudes.

Vitamin D deficiency is so common that I routinely screen all of my patients for Vitamin D levels and rarely find anyone to be in the optimum range. Studies done on children in Finland, for instance, have found 400 times higher incidences of diabetes than children in Venezuela. In one study, when Finnish children were administered 2000 IU per day of Vitamin D3, they demonstrated an eighty-percent reduction in the onset of juvenile diabetes. When pregnant women have their vitamin D levels restored to optimal levels, the incidence of juvenile diabetes was reduced 50% in their offspring.

As discussed, Vitamin D deficiency is more prevalent in winter months due to less sun exposure. This correlates exactly with the time that flu epidemics break out. Evidence supports the position that normalizing Vitamin D levels in winter will significantly reduce the incidence and number of flu cases. Vitamin D deficiency in winter is also correlated with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression.

Adequate Vitamin D is essential for preventing osteoporosis and osteopenia, which are rampant today in Westernized cultures especially after menopause. Women can significantly reduce this problem and their risk of fractures by maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels along with calcium, magnesium, strontium, and Hormone Replacement therapy. Ideal levels are between 50-100 ng/ml. This level can be maintained by simply taking a supplement of Vitamin D3 of usually 2000-5000 IU/day. Alternatively, just twenty-to-thirty minutes per day of sun exposure 
(without sun block) can accomplish the same optimal levels. However, fair skinned persons may require less than dark pigmented people, and people living closer to the equator need less exposure as well.

Vitamin D toxicity is rare due to its wide therapeutic range. Optimal dosing and monitoring is necessary by a physician who understands the importance of this essential nutrient. Further details about the wonders of Vitamin D can be obtained by reading Dr. Khalsa’s informative book.

In summary, Vitamin D is an essential and inexpensive over-the-counter, simple nutrient for preventing many serious and common ailments. Similar benefits can be achieved by regular sun exposure of well-moisturized skin and not using sunscreen.

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