Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vitamin D: Sunshine or Pills - What's the Difference?

There are very few reliable sources of vitamin D in the diet. Typical diets - even many rich in fresh, whole foods including fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats - contain less than 100 IU of vitamin D. Most vitamin D is made by exposure of the skin to the sun.

In today's world, many people are living with minimal exposure of naked skin to the mid day sun. It's wonderful that vitamin D supplements are an option for these people. Supplements, however, might have different effects on the body than sunshine. What if, for instance, high levels of vitamin D in the skin activate genes that signal other organs in the body to make more or less vitamin D receptors? In other words, what if excellent health requires significantly higher levels of vitamin D in the skin than in other organs? What if pills preferentially build vitamin D levels in organs other than the skin?

Not nearly enough is known about the details of vitamin D metabolism. Mainstream medicine has overseen the deterioration of the health of the nation. More and more Americans are taking prescription drugs at younger and younger ages. Poor health in middle age is common. Don't believe for a second that the epidemic of chronic health conditions in middle aged people is due to poor genes. Just look at any identical twin studies - there are huge differences in health outcomes based on behavior and the environment. The single most important behaviorial and environmental factors are ample micronutrients, sunshine, clean air, and clean water - the fundamentals of nutrition. Yet doctors more often are experts in drugs, not nutrition. The most important nutrients are vitamins A, B, C, and D - the extracts discovered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to contain constituents vital for health. I recommend that everyone study what is known about vitamins A, B, C, and D, and then make sure to get plenty of each of them. I recommend regular supplements of vitamins B1, B3, and C. Vitamin D is best obtained by getting plenty of sunshine.

Many readers will have some responsibility for the care of children. Thanks to computers and organized activities, kids are spending more and more time inside. With the best of intentions, children are behaving in ways that produce less and less vitamin D from sun exposure. It's time for adults to really think this through. Children have played near naked in the sun for millions of years. Today's children have plenty of health problems. More and more are taking prescription drugs. Are you sure that lack of vitamin D isn't a partial cause? Are you sure that vitamin D supplements in milk and multivitamins provide all the health benefits of sunshine? I'm not - so I'm making sure that the kids in my care know to get plenty of sun.


At 5:25 AM, Blogger TedHutchinson said...

Urban Tropospheric Ozone Increases the Prevalence of Vitamin D Deficiency shows how sunshine only creates vitamin D3 in the skin if there is UVB present.

If the UVB has been absorbed by urban pollution then people only get exposed to UVA and this increases the risk of skin cancer. It's to avoid UVA exposure people are warned against the use of commercial tanning beds.

If you search for noctilucent clouds you will perhaps grasp the idea that upper atmospheric dust could block or reflect back into space much UVB that previously reached ground level.

This is only looking at the external reasons for the progressive decline in global 25(OH)D levels.
This paper explains how the amount of cholesterol in the skin determines the amount of Vitamin D that skin produces. Many people take statins and others strive to lower cholesterol through diet. Skin naturally as part of the aging process loses cholesterol and thins. With many people prematurely aging skin with statins and anti cholesterol foods, this self inflicted, harmful, reduction in Vitamin D status must be considered when suggesting people only or mainly get vitamin D from sunshine.

If there is little or no UVB in the sunshine and little or cholesterol in the skin then however long you spend in sunshine will not be sufficient.

Circulating 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Levels in Fully Breastfed Infants on Oral Vitamin D Supplementation shows it's only when the primitive natural levels human bodies naturally attain and maintain living near naked outdoor lives under sunny unpolluted skies 60~80ng/ml 150~200nmol/l that human breast milk is a complete, vitamin D3 replete, food for babies.

In order to replicate the natural primitive status human DNA evolved to function best with, around 1000iu/daily/D3 for each 25lb's weight is required. There is no reason to suggest that the biologically identical form of vitamin D is used differently than that produced in the skin.

Vitamin D may be bought in MCT oil capsules and it's a simple matter to puncture the capsules and massage the MCT oil bearing D3 into the skin, preferably on skin the sun doesn't shine on as UVA degrades D3.

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following C blog statement, "The single most important behaviorial and environmental factors are clean air, clean water, and ample micronutrients - the fundamentals of nutrition." is incomplete. You've left out an equally, if not the most important factor... LIGHT! No light NO LIFE!

Additionally, light is also a bio-nutrient...think vitamin D. Each specific wavelength elicits a specific biological response... think photosynthesis!

"We are human photocells whose ultimate biological nutrient is sunlight. Nature's rhythmic light is essential for regulating brain chemistry, major hormones and vital circadian rhythms that control appetite, energy, mood, sleep, libido and other critical mind-body functions."

Everyone knows the sun rises and sets every day — this essential cycle sets the basic rhythm of life.

All the news about the 'sunshine vitamin' has obscured the real core problem... we 'contemporary cave-dwellers' are in fact starving for the 'Miracle of Light' and suffering unwittingly from MAL-ILLUMINATION. Like malnutrition, mal-illumination deprives one of a level of 'bio-nutrients and rhythmic stimulation' that is essential for living as whole, healthy humans.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger TedHutchinson said...

Interesting point about light, and it's impact on circadian rhythm being extremely important.

I'm just reading a new hypothesis on MS incidence suggesting how sunlight may alter the amount of vitamin A and melatonin levels during immune development in the central nervous system.
There is also a subset of diabetes cased where a particular gene sequence makes them vulnerable to excess melatonin during the day that reducing the capacity of their pancreas to generate sufficient insulin. They in particular need bright light early in the morning to switch off melatonin secretion so their pancreas is able to function optimally.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger Steve said...


Thanks for your comments - really great information. I especially liked your comments about cholesterol and statin drugs.

Where we seem to disagree is about the difficulty of getting enough vitamin D from the sun. I think that sitting near naked in the mid day sun enables plenty of vitamin D exposure. Just 5 to 10 minutes is all I can manage without tanning in the middle of the summer. Tanning is nature's way of toning down the ability to make vitamin D. I wouldn't be surprised if regular sun exposure also reduced cholesterol levels in the skin - another straightforward biofeedback mechanism to optimize vitamin D levels.

I took your suggestion from a prior post about magnesium and I think it solved two problems I was having - restless legs and prickly skin. Thanks again.


At 6:45 PM, Blogger Steve said...

Dear Anonymous,

I agree with your comment and edited the column to reflect my agreement.

Thanks for helping,


At 10:31 AM, Blogger TedHutchinson said...

I think the problem is you are assuming because there is a lot of UVA in the sunshine that creates a tan quickly, your 25(OH)D3 level will be adequate.

I am absolutely certain you will NOT have a 25(OH)D3 level anywhere like 55ng/nl(137.5nmol/l) and certainly will not be in the the 60~8Ong/ml(150~200nmol/l) level that human bodies naturally acquire living near naked under unpolluted skies.
Grassrootshealth D Action are a charity offering postal vit d testing. You fill in a form, pay your money, they send a test kit, you put 2 drops of blood on the sample tissue return the sample and a few days later they email you a link to the result.
You'll be very lucky if your level is anywhere near 20ng/ml 50nmol/l. and I doubt your body is even able to absorb optimum amounts of calcium. To guarantee maximum Bone Mineral Density you really (if your Caucasian) you need 42ng/ml 105nmol/l and I bet early March MOST UK adults reading this will UNDER 50nmol/l. Less than a third the natural primitive status.
When our DNA was evolving there weren't factories, cars planes etc spewing out pollution 25/7.
Most people live in towns and most towns have traffic and people who live in towns generally have lower 25(OH)D than people in the country.
But the guys in town will tan faster because they get MORE UVA (reflected from buildings) but the pollution zaps the UVB so little or no Vitamin D production in urban environments.
Before you encourage others to adopt your strategy you should take the trouble to check that your 25(OH)D is at least adequate to maintain optimum BMD and preferably sufficient to maintain a reserve of D3 to deal with inflammation or infection.

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Steve said...


My strategy was to take as much vitamin D as I could tolerate without side effects. I started at 4000 IU/day. I noticed an immediate improvement in my immunity to colds, and would take as much as 10,000 IU on a day when I was getting a cold. After three months the side effects started. I backed off on the vitamin D and my colds got worse - so I increased the vitamin D as I'd rather have the side effects than the colds. Unfortunately, after several more months I had terrible cardiac side effects - really bad chest pains. I had to stop the vitamin D and went for a full cardiac workup (which of course showed no problems). That's when I switched to mostly sunshine. I still take supplements - but every time I do I get obvious side effects within minutes. My feeling is I'm getting higher levels of vitamin D with fewer side effects from the sun than I can get from pills.

So - test results are irrelevant to me. I'm taking as much vitamin D as I can tolerate. I can't tolerate any more no matter what my blood test says.


At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your information. I was just called from my doctor who wanted to start me on priscription strength vitamin D. My blood levels are around 8 or 9 and the norm is between 25 and 80. I have had many health issues from the time I was 18 years of age. I am now 43.

At 6:03 PM, Blogger TedHutchinson said...

Well I hope William doesn't waste his time and money on prescription Vitamin D2.
The case against Ergocalciferol as a vitamin supplement this paper explains the Ergocalciferol issue.
50,000iu Ergocalciferol D2 (Drisdol prescription RX form) is the equivalent of 15,000iu of Vitamin D3

Search online with the Words
biotech 50,000iu free shipping and you'll find the most effective, safest and cheapest way of raising vitamin D levels.
I have no connection with that company or any of the sources of supply.
You'll find the other sources are generally cheaper than direct from the maker.
If you take ONE of these 50,000iu each week for the next 3 months and then retest I'm sure you will find that works out about right. Although as I see from your profile you are very tall if you are also heavy that may not be quite adequate.
1000iu/daily per 25lbs weight is a good formula to start with. It's possible you weigh 250lbs in which case one of those 50,000iu capsules every 5 days would work out right. 10,000iu/daily.
As your skin adjusts it's production of Vitamin D according to your 25(OH)D level (it makes more when you are deficient and less when you are replete) providing you stay at the average of 10,000iu/daily limit you can also safely get extra non burning midday full body sun exposure.

At 1:04 AM, Anonymous lorna vanderhaeghe said...

In sunshine, you'll only get vitamin D. With pills, you're not sure if it's only vitamin D. There might be other additives in them.


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