Do you take supplements? If so, which ones do you take? And why?
A popular one these days is vitamin D. We’ve seen a rise in the number of people taking vitamin D during the winter months when there is either less sunshine or it’s too cold to get out there and get some rays.
So why the need to supplement with vitamin D?
Well this vitamin is required for calcium absorption which plays a role in our bone health. This relationship is seen whenever you drink milk.
According to the Institute of Medicine we should get 600-800 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. Higher levels of 1-2000 IU per day are still deemed safe. As our bodies cannot produced this vitamin it is important that we supplement.
Compounding the challenge of our bodies not being able to make it is the fact that we spend more of our days indoor. And with technology and global markets we don’t operate precisely on a circadian rhythm. Graveyard workers might be asleep during the part of the day when there is an option to get sun.
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher levels of a number of diseases and health concerns including cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, decline in cognitive function and auto-immune disorders. Naturally we have seen an increase in the number of people being prescribed and taking supplemental vitamin D.
So how is this working?
Unfortunately supplemental vitamin D is showing to not be effective. A recent study with over 25,000 subjects lasting 5 years showed no impact on cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Unfortunately it gets worse.
There seems to have been an over-correction with our concern for exposure to the sun. We have known that being further from the sun is associated with higher levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and mortality. And this is worse during the darker months of winter. This is then made worse as we’ve scared everyone into never getting any exposure to the sun.
What this has resulted in is an increased risk of mortality for sun avoiders compared to sun worshipers. And by increase I’m talking about twice the rate of mortality of the diseases mentioned above.
Should we concerned about skin cancer?
We don’t want to disregard the potential harm that can come from too much sun exposure. And we can be a little smarter about how we think about being in the sun. Be more cautious with younger children especially when it comes to burns at a young age. Pay attention to the UV Index and plan your time in the sun when levels are 3 or lower. And if you’re in the habit of taking vitamin D you don’t need to stop. It will still offer health benefits, it still helps with bone health and most of us are deficient. It’s just that it may not confer the all the additional health benefits we were hoping for.