Scared of the Sun – the Global Pandemic of Vitamin D Deficiency




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Under the grey skies of the UK, a childhood disease thought to have been almost eliminated half a century ago is rising up like a specter from the past, spooking parents and doctors alike. Rickets, a condition which evokes images of a bygone era of childhood malnutrition, is on the rise in a big way, and its principal cause is a lack of vitamin D.

This phenomenon isn’t limited to the British Isles however. Vitamin D deficiency has already become a global pandemic, yet remains frequently overlooked by both media and health professionals. Recent research suggests that more than 80% of the European population and half of the world are vitamin D deficient. It is possible to obtain vitamin D principally from food and food supplements, but the main and best source of vitamin D is sun exposure.

Conflicting recommendations about the risks of sun exposure and its relationship to skin cancer has contributed to a lack of exposure to the sun’s UV rays as people cover up and use sunscreen. Nonetheless there are a multitude of factors at work here, and a sharp rise in time spent indoors must be considered as a significant contributing social factor.

Vitamin D is absolutely essential for human health. Most of the body’s tissues and cells have vitamin D receptors. It helps in regulating the immune system, and is necessary for the transformation of blood calcium to bone calcium — essential for strong bones. Deficiency has been linked to a number of illnesses such as osteoporosis, osteomalacia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, hypertension, depression, obesity, dementia and cancer.

In children, this deficiency is the principal cause of rickets, a condition involving the softening of the bones, which can result in growth retardation, skeletal deformities, fractures, muscle weakness, hypocalcemia, tetany, seizures and in untreated cases can lead to mortality.

Dr. Michael Holick, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University, is at the leading edge of current vitamin D research. He explains that after the epidemic scourge of the 19th century, rickets was thought to have been almost eradicated with the introduction of fortified foods, but that it is indeed now becoming a frequent occurrence globally in both breast and bottle fed infants. In most cases when a baby is detected with vitamin D, deficiency the mother is found to suffer from the same condition.

Other specific populations at very high risk of vitamin D deficiency include the elderly, those who are confined indoors, and people who do not receive adequate sun exposure due to wearing traditional forms of dress such as burkas.

Vitamin D occurs naturally in a few foods such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring) and oils from fish, including cod liver oil. In smaller amounts, it exists in foods such as egg yolk and raw milk, and in fortified foods such as juices, breads, yogurts, cereals, milk, and cheese. In its pharmaceutical form it can be obtained as ergocalciferol (vitamin 2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin 3).

Experts agree that more research is needed into how much vitamin D supplementation is truly optimal. According to a paper by Hanley, the maximum routine daily recommendation for adults is up to 2000 IU. They advise that anyone regularly taking a dose above this limit should be monitored.

Research also suggests that vitamin D2 is not as beneficial as vitamin D3 since it is not as potent and its absorption by the body is less efficient. Direct sunlight exposure facilitates synthesis of vitamin D by the body itself, and there is evidence that this provides additional benefits which the supplements alone cannot.

In order for the body to synthesize vitamin D, direct sun exposure is needed. The recommended amount of exposure has been found to depend on a whole range of factors such as skin pigmentation, age, altitude, latitude, diet, clothing and an individual’s current vitamin D levels. Consequently, it is impossible to provide accurate general guidelines as to how much sun exposure is required to avoid vitamin D deficiency.

Medical experts advise that exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light without sunscreen increases the risks of cancer and premature aging. There are no definitive guidelines as to how much direct unprotected sunlight exposure is safe. In recommending vitamin D supplements, doctors ensure that individuals obtain the necessary amounts of vitamin D without exposing themselves to other health risks.

On the other hand, it is proven that sun exposure is not only beneficial but essential for human beings. Still in much of the Western world, this fear of sunlight coupled with the long dark days of winter, and rainy summers without enough sun are keeping us from obtaining even the minimum sunlight necessary for our bodies to obtain the chemical benefits. Our sedentary lifestyles frequently keep us closer to the dim light of a bulb or that of a flickering computer screen than to the sun, and even when we do exercise we often choose to do this indoors in a gym or sports facility. It seems that it is high time we turn once more to worship the sun — source and sustainer of all life on Earth.

References

Gartner, L. (2003). Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency: New Guidelines for Vitamin D Intake PEDIATRICS, 111 (4), 908-910 DOI: 10.1542/peds.111.4.908

Hanley, D., Cranney, A., Jones, G., Whiting, S., Leslie, W., & , . (2010). Vitamin D in adult health and disease: a review and guideline statement from Osteoporosis Canada (summary) Canadian Medical Association Journal, 182 (12), 1315-1319 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.091062

Heaney RP, Recker RR, Grote J, Horst RL, & Armas LA (2011). Vitamin D(3) is more potent than vitamin D(2) in humans. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 96 (3) PMID: 21177785

Holick MF (2006). Resurrection of vitamin D deficiency and rickets. The Journal of clinical investigation, 116 (8), 2062-72 PMID: 16886050

Holick MF, & Chen TC (2008). Vitamin D deficiency: a worldwide problem with health consequences. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 87 (4) PMID: 18400738

Image via Roman Sakhno / Shutterstock.

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  • http://www.bencollier.info Ben Collier

    My understanding of this issue in the UK is that it’s primarily associated with Black-British people whose extra skin pigmentation renders them far less able to synthesise Vitamin D in the weedy British sunshine.

    You did allude to it briefly. Is this something which has been common in northern latitudes of the USA? Obviously, there have been more black people in the US for a lot longer, perhaps they’re used to compensating?

  • Noemi Bostrom

    This is very informative. I’m glad I do a lot of outdoor exercises. I feel weak when I can’t be exposed to a healthy sunlight for several days.

  • http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au Mushroom Enthusiast

    Interesting article but you failed to mention that mushrooms also contain vitamin D. A recent article in the UK Daily Mail, highlighted that not only is the “D” in mushrooms equal to that found in supplements, but that you can boost the “D” by putting your normal white button mushrooms out in the sun. A deliciously easy option…

  • Missing a big one

    You fail to mention one of the biggest causes of Vitamin D deficiency: geoengineering.

    The spraying of chemtrails, chemical mixtures of aluminum, barium, strontium, and many other things – in some places almost daily, is blocking a significant amount of sunlight. This is just one of the intended effects of geoengineering.

    • Anonymous

      At last, the REAL cause indeed.

  • jadez

    there is no need to monitor anyone taking 2000 units of vit d a day.

    i take 5000 and have been doing so for years.

    the only concern would be is 5000 enough.

    most likly 8000 units a day is more to the point.

    in any case……i am unaware of A SINGLE CASE when taking daily sups of vit d have ever caused an issue.

    so stop the scare tactics and anyone willing to learn the truth about vit d can find it at the LE website.

    thats life extension.

  • Bob

    Can recommend to tjek out the connection between vitamin D absorption and bathing with soap, Dr. mercola explanes.

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  • http://sarahrehan23.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    In recent years, there has been much talk about Vitamin D deficiency in Pakistan. This comes as a surprise in view of the ample amount of sunshine that is rampantly available across Pakistan.
    A relative while discussing the Vitamin D deficiency parameter explained that the human body needs to receive sunlight on the shoulders and upper arms for Vitamin D synthesis and subsequent calcium absorption.
    I quickly related this to the profusion of sleeveless ready-to-wear clothing that floods the markets in Pakistan. Maybe the Vitamin D deficiency and sleeveless popularity are related in some odd undisclosed way.

    http://sarahrehan23.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-vitamin-d-deficient-pakistanis.html

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  • Pat

    One can very easily see and understand that with the Chemtrails that criss-cross across the skies worldwide blocking out much of the sunlight, why wouldn’t a Vitamin D deficiency exist?

    Also plants, vegetables, fruits, herbs, trees and shrubs, etc. need sunlight for photosynthesis to properly develop and grow our foods.

    Yet worldwide our foods are not growing properly but getting molds, fungus. Trees and forests are dying, people’s health is being severely affected by the toxic chemicals being dropped from the aircraft – that have no controls – over our cities.

    Politicians must be part of this sinister plan as they IGNORE THE PLEAS OF THE PEOPLE WHO PAY THEIR SALARIES AND WANT THIS STOPPED!!

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  • http://www.doctorshealthpress.com/ Jacob edward

    Vitamin D is responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate.

    For more information please visit:

  • Nutri Man

    And as Dr. T. Colin Campbell explains in The China Study, consuming meat and dairy foods creates a PH imbalance in our blood, which the body then works to correct by extracting calcium from our bones. The public is urged to gulp down as much milk and yogurt as their obese bodies can hold in order to “build strong bones”, and in the very act, they destroy the health of those same bones. Please get your vitamin D from the sun or a supplement, and stay away from dairy.

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Lorena Nessi, PhD, MA

Lorena Nessi, PhD, MA, is an award winning journalist, researcher, and cultural sociologist. She holds a PhD in Communication, Sociology and Digital Cultures and a Masters degree in Globalization, Identity and Technology. She received the Avina scholarship for investigative journalism and was previously a BBC Producer. Her fields of interest include digital cultures, sociology, social media, technology and capitalism.
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