As summer sets in, our collective concerns begin to pique with regards to increased sun exposure. In lieu of George Hamilton’s toasty complexion, many of us would prefer a healthier olive hue. With Vitamin D’s ever expanding status as supplement strong-horse, are we best off foregoing the sunscreen in order to get our daily D-fix? Or should we lather on our choice of natural (or preternatural) sun block preparation, thwarting our natural propensity for D absorption in order to ward off the looming fears brought about by Delaware’s impressive skin cancer rates.
In the past decade or two, increasing numbers of individuals have appreciated significant health benefits via Vitamin D-3 supplementation. The once modest doctor recommended dose of 400 i.u. per day was increased to 1000, then more recently to 2000. Although this trend has undoubtedly been a lucrative development for the supplement industry and health food stores nationwide, it raises questions regarding the necessity of ingesting high doses of a nutrient that, throughout human evolution, our bodies have been producing unimpeded.
Although recent research on Vitamin D elucidates greater functions within the body than originally believed, it seems likely that the full scope of its role as immune system activator, growth regulator and bone builder are, at best, only peripherally understood. With modern diagnostic testing, there is increasing evidence that a broad array of health conditions could be the result of an easily avoidable Vitamin D deficiency. During the colder, darker seasons adequate levels can be supplied through the use of nutritional supplements or by selecting and consuming Vitamin D rich foods such as cod liver oil, egg yolks and organ meats. During the later spring and summer months, it may be wiser to scale back, supplementing with lower doses and allowing for your skin to bolster your supply of this important nutrient.
The metabolism of Vitamin D is governed by a series of complex processes, and indiscriminate supplementation year-round could potentially have unintended and unbalancing consequences. If, for example, high doses of vitamin D-3 were consumed without the cofactors that aid its metabolic functioning, it could lead to an insidious calcification of soft tissues, increasing the risk of both cardiovascular and kidney disease. Additionally, some studies suggest that certain individuals, particularly those with autoimmune conditions, might not be effective in utilizing the nutrient, and in taking excessive amounts may risk an exacerbation of their symptoms.
Those concerned with maintaining balance during D-3 supplementation might want to consider increasing their intake of Vitamin A, magnesium and the fat-soluble K-2, all nutrients that have been proven to support the efficacy and safety of Vitamin D. Foods that contain these nutrients include the aforementioned eggs and organ meats, as well as fresh vegetables containing significant amounts of Beta-Carotene and magnesium. If your diet is already centered around whole, unprocessed foods, it might not be such a bad idea to go light on the sunscreen and get yourself a tan that would make Mr. George Hamilton (whose picture I so dearly wish I could include) proud.
By Rick, Our Supplement Manager