Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin

Dr. Kate Kuntze, ND Nutrient Spotlight

Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because it can be obtained from the sun and can physiologically brighten your day by affecting mood and neurological function – this is why we call it “D-Vine Sunshine”. It is well known for its benefit for bone health with osteoporosis, but research indicates that it has the potential to benefit many other health conditions such as cancer, mental health, immune health and autoimmune conditions. Despite its widespread benefits, it is estimated that 1 billion people have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency worldwide. A 2010 review from the University of Alberta found an astounding 75-97% of Canadians demonstrated vitamin D insufficiency, and a considerable proportion of the population sustaining a severe deficiency.

Due to Canada’s latitude, the sun’s rays are not strong enough from November through May for Canadians to make vitamin D naturally (not too mention all the clothes we wear that cover our skin up to keep warm through the colder months). Fortunately from April through October, with adequate weather and our skin being exposed to the sun’s rays, we are able to make some vitamin D around midday (from 10am – 2pm), when the UV index is above 3 and your shadow is shorter than your height.

Can we obtain it from our foods?

It is naturally present in very few foods. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources. Very small amounts are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Consequently sunshine and supplementation seems to be our best source of this vitamin.

But are we getting enough?

The best way to know if you are getting enough vitamin D is by getting your blood levels tested. It is important to note that everyone is different and it is not a good idea to supplement highly or for too long without checking levels as vitamin D toxicity can occur. Test, don’t guess!

 

References:

National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D Fact Sheet For Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ Accessed September 10, 2020.

Sahota O. Understanding vitamin D deficiency. Age Ageing. 2014;43(5):589-591. doi:10.1093/ageing/afu104

Schwalfenberg GK, Genuis SJ, Hiltz MN. Addressing vitamin D deficiency in Canada: a public health innovation whose time has come. Public Health. 2010;124(6):350-359. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2010.03.003