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The Vitamin D Solution, a book review, by Matthew Romans

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Colorado showed that 70 percent of whites, 90 percent of Hispanics, and 97 percent of African Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D. Insufficient Vitamin D has been linked to psoriasis, depression, periodontal disease, and autoimmune diseases; even people with Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease have shown lower levels of Vitamin D. I discovered this information in the book "The Vitamin D Solution" by Michael F. Holick, PhD., M.D. Dr. Holick is a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at Boston University, and is one of the world's foremost researchers on Vitamin D. He has devoted nearly four decades to the relationship between sunlight and the body, and his book is full of valuable information that can make a huge impact on our health and well-being.

The book first details what Vitamin D is, what it does, the effects of a deficiency, and diseases or medical conditions that are related to insufficient levels. According to Dr. Holick, "Generally speaking, vitamins are organic compounds that cannot be made by the body but are necessary for proper functioning." That being said, "Hormones...are synthesized in the body from simple precursors and go to distant tissues where they have an intended effect and make multiple metabolic improvements." In this respect, Vitamin D acts more as a hormone rather than a vitamin; sunlight is absorbed by the skin cells and then sent to the bloodstream, where it is then activated through your liver and kidneys to become the Vitamin D that circulates throughout the body. Much has been made over the years about the dangers of sun exposure, and it's true that too much sun can cause skin damage and increase your risk for skin cancer, but sensible exposure to sunlight is very healthy for the body. While sunlight contains UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation, only exposure to UVB can stimulate production of Vitamin D in the body.

The benefits of Vitamin D in the body are numerous; Vitamin D can improve bone and cellular health by preventing osteoporosis and certain types of cancer, it prevents heart attacks, strokes, and type 2 diabetes, and can keep your brain healthy by preventing depression, schizophrenia, and dementia. Vitamin D is also a key component of muscular health, as it helps to absorb the calcium that is needed for muscular functions. This amazing vitamin (hormone) also plays a pivotal role in regulating mood and improving sleep disorders, as well as preventing autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The author provides a very helpful barometer of your Vitamin D status. The ideal range is between 40 and 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). 21-29 ng/ml is considered insufficient, while a reading of 20 ng/ml and below falls into the deficient category. Vitamin D intoxication occurs with a level of 150 ng/ml and above, however intoxication can only occur through diet and supplementation. It must be noted that it is impossible to achieve toxic levels through sun exposure; you would get sunburned long before that happens.

Part two of this book explores some strategies to improve Vitamin D levels. One recommendation is to have regular and sensible sun exposure on your skin, particularly during the months of March through October; since we live in the mid latitudes (between 35 and 50 degrees), Vitamin D cannot be manufactured from direct sunlight between November and February. It is important to know your skin type and how long to stay in the sun before applying sunblock, and Dr. Holick provides a chart detailing six different skin types based on pigmentation and tendency to burn. Another suggestion is to consume an adequate amount of calcium, either through diet or supplementation. As Dr. Holick says, "Calcium is required for skeletal and cardiac muscle contraction, blood vessel expansion and contraction, secretion of hormones and enzymes, and transmission of impulses throughout the nervous system." High levels of Vitamin D can demineralize bone if adequate calcium is not consumed. Rich dietary sources of calcium include dairy, leafy green vegetables, and nuts. For those who do not consume enough calcium in their diet, a calcium supplement is a good alternative. The final recommendation to improve your Vitamin D levels is to take a daily Vitamin D supplement. I encourage everyone to do this, since we do not live in the tropics and most of us do not work outdoors year-round. Dr. Holick recommends, "...that everyone take at least 1,000 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D a day (and preferably 2,000 IU) along with a multivitamin containing 400 IU of Vitamin D all year long." I have taken 5,000 IU per day for a few years now, and have suffered no ill effects. In fact, Dr. Holick and Dr. Robert Heaney conducted a study that showed one can take up to 10,000 IU of Vitamin D per day for five months without toxicity. Vitamin D is fat soluble; it is stored in fat cells and can be used during the winter months, even if we spend less time outdoors or stop supplementing for a time.

The body is full of Vitamin D receptors; every tissue and cell has one. If Vitamin D weren't critically important to optimal body function, this wouldn't be the case. According to Dr. Holick, Vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency is our most common health problem, yet very little attention is given to it by most of the medical establishment. In fact, many doctors don't include Vitamin D tests as part of a standard panel. The solutions presented in this book are straightforward, simple to implement, and are cost-effective (sunshine is free!). Don't be misled by what Dr. Holick calls the "sunphobes"; sensible and responsible sun exposure will not increase your risk for skin cancer. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that Vitamin D deficiency can put you at even greater risk for melanoma. There is a reason why we often feel a sense of peace and calm after spending some time in the sun; because it's good for us! Eat well, supplement, and spend some time in the sun. You'll be surprised at how quickly your mood, energy level, and health start to improve.

Posted November 04, 2020 by Tim Rankin