The Sunshine Vitamin

By Katie Gangloff

Feel the winter blues creeping up? Most of us are aware of the physical and mental numbing of the winter cold. The sun doesn’t shine as long as it does in warmer months. To escape the cold we spend most of our time hibernating indoors snuggled up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and the first season of Glee. Studies show that we should be getting as much sunlight as possible during winter months because the sun doesn’t shine as long and isn’t as warm as it is in June and July. Having sufficient levels of Vitamin D can prevent depression, muscle and bone weakness, certain types of cancer, and much more. Kennel, Drake, and Hurley find that many people are Vitamin D deficient and may not even know it. Adequate levels of Vitamin D are measured from the 25-hydroxyvitamin D, (also known as 25(OH)D), concentration in the blood.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the percentage of adults achieving vitamin D sufficiency as defined by 25(OH)D of as least 30 ng/mL [nanograms per milliliter] has declined from about 60% in 1988-1994 to approximately 30% in 2001-2004 in whites and from about 10% to approximately 5% in African Americans during this same time.”

First of all, what is Vitamin D? It’s not technically a vitamin, but an extremely powerful steroid hormone in our bodies. The easiest (and free) way to obtain Vitamin D is via sun exposure. way. Cholesterol is absorbed by your skin and eventually converted into Vitamin D by the liver. The only way to get it is from the sun, not through food. The cholesterol in the skin is gradually lost as our bodies age, which in turn creates an inability to synthesize the Vitamin D.

Another way to gain the essential ‘vitamin’ is through a supplement. “Since 1997, the Food and Nutrition Board has advised an AI [all individuals] of Vitamin D of 200 to 600 IU/d[International Units].” In relation to other medicines, this is like taking two Tylenol for a headache, only this stuff is much better. This dosage was recommended to be taken and used to fortify foods.

What do you do if you have a Vitamin D deficiency? By taking a “loading dose” you can jump start the production of Vitamin D in your body. A loading dose is almost like pumping a whole butt load of adrenaline or steroids at one time in order to get a better result in the end. One way to load a dose is to take 50,000 IU (or 1.25 milligrams) of Vitamin D once weekly for a designated amount of time prescribed by your doctor. Of course Vitamin D comes in a variety of doses, from 200 IU up to 5000 IU. Below are a few reasons why you should care about your Vitamin D level.

Kennel, Drake, and Hurley suggest that having enough Vitamin D can prevent the following:

  • rickets
  • 17 types of cancer including pancreatic, colon/rectal, stomach, prostate, lung, breast, bladder, uterine, espousal, kidney, ovarian, multiple melanoma, non-hodgkin’s lymphoma, and leukemia
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve immune system function (prevents colds and flu), autoimmune function, inflammation
  • multiple sclerosis
  • autism
  • allergies
  • preeclampsia
  • both type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • depression
  • muscle and bone weakness
  • generalized pain

A common misconception is that Vitamin D will ‘cure’ all of the above, but really if you had sufficient levels of Vitamin D most of these things wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“So Vitamin D simply allows our bodies to work the way they were designed to “

Now, you’re thinking, “how am I supposed to get sun when the days are becoming shorter and shorter?” A few suggestions include to take a walk during your lunch break, stand in the sun so your face is exposed, take supplements, and definitely talk to your doctor to find out if you are Vitamin D deficient. For those of you that hit the tanning beds, you’ll get your Vitamin D fix but be weary of the side-affects. Ever heard of skin cancer? Play it safe and stick to supplements.

We are reading your mind once again, why should you care if you’re getting enough Vitamin D? The benefits are tremendous, Vitamin D can keep you healthy, strong, alive longer, and overall happier. And who doesn’t want to be happier?

Kennel, Kurt A., Matthew T. Drake, and Daniel L. Hurley. “Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: When to Test and How to Treat.” Mayo Clinic. 85.8 (2010): 752-758.


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