Vitamin D – More Than Just Sunshine!

Vitamin D has had it’s fair share of the headlines just recently.

Up to half of all adults in this country have a Vitamin D deficiency.  If you are deficient in this vitamin, then you are perhaps asking for Osteoporosis, high blood pressure and even a shortened life span.  It seems to be increasingly important that we get enough vitamin D but also, the right source.

Vitamin D is not strictly speaking a vitamin.  Vitamins are micro nutrients the body uses in various processes.  Vitamin D is a prohormone, a substance that the body converts into a hormone.  The most important thing to remember about Vitamin D is that the main source is sunlight as opposed to food.

It seems odd that so many of us are struggling with a Vitamin D deficiency seeing as all we need to do in order to get enough is expose our face and hands to the sun for 15 minutes per day, maybe more if you live in the North.  Perhaps in recent years the general obsessions with skin cancer and the use of sun cream hasn’t helped the Vitamin D cause.  Also, we just don’t go outside our own front doors as much as we used to of in favour of the Playstation and the computer!  We are all at risk from the multitude of ailments that appear to come from having a Vitamin D deficiency.  The truth of the matter is that 15 minutes spent in the sun each day is really not that difficult and the rewards will be immense.

For sure, Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, it helps bones absorb calcium.  It is also believed to fight off cancer, it keeps blood pressure low, and reduces inflammation.  Diseases such as MS and Diabetes have also been implicated in Vitamin D deficiency.  Research is also being done on the link with a lack of Vitamin D and depression, back pain, heart attacks and Fibromyalgia.

Recently, there has been some very interesting research carried out that says that taking Vitamin D may assist in fat loss as well as reduce the risk of chronic disease, so the benefits to this vitamin are far reaching!

The resent study looked at overweight and obese Iranian women and treated them with 1000 iu of Vitamin D for a period of 12 weeks.  Several different parameters were measured including:

HDL – cholesterol levels – higher HDL levels are associated with reduced risk of heart disease.

Apolipoprotein A – 1 (ApoA-1) levels – ApoA1 is a component of HDL – cholesterol and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

LDL – cholesterol.  Apolopoprotein B100 (ApoB-100) ratio – this ratio is a marker for the size and density of LDL – cholesterol – cholesterol particles.  Lower ratios correspond with larger, less dense LDL – cholesterol, which appear to be harmless in comparison to so called  “small, dense” LDL – cholesterol.

Fat Mass.

One group took a placebo.  Those taking the vitamin saw:

Significant increase in HDL levels.

Significant increase in ApoA-1 levels.

Significant decrease in LDL – cholesterol: ApoB – 100 ratio.

The Vitamin D group not only seemed to show a reduced risk of cardio vascular disease, but they saw a reduction in their fat mass of 2.7kg on average.  The placebo group lost less than 0.5 kg.

So, it looks like it’s really important to our overall health to keep our Vitamin D levels up.  One can also benefit from eating certain foods such as mackerel, sardines, tuna, beef liver and eggs which also contain varying amounts of Vitamin D but the most effective source is sunlight.  You can also take a supplement, but make sure it is of good quality.  As for doses, that’s a little tricky unless you test the blood to know exactly where you are with it.  Overdose is rare but not impossible with very unpleasant side effects.  If in doubt, check with your GP or dietician.

Helen West, who works with me at Weightmatters, and is a clinical dietician, would also be able to help with this or any further questions you may have.

Enjoy the great outdoors and the sunshine!