The colder months are now behind us and summer is fast approaching bringing about more hours and options for getting active outside and soaking up all that sunshine. Not only does being out in the fresh air and basking in the rays of the sun feel great but this simple act is more crucial for your health & wellbeing then most people realise.
When we expose our skin to the sun’s rays, a chemical reaction occurs in our body and we create Vitamin D. This vitamin is crucial in helping maintain optimum health, but according to international surveys and studies1-5, the majority of people have a vitamin D deficiency.
Many studies6-16 have also shown that this vitamin can have a number of health benefits, with high levels of vitamin D being associated with:
– A reduced risk and severity of colds and flu
– A reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and depression.
– Improved greater mobility.
– A decreased risk of death in the elderly.
– A reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
– Improved pancreas function.
– Increased survival rates of ICU (intensive care unit) patients.
Although the claim of these health benefits are based purely on observational studies (i.e. the research has shown a correlation between higher levels of Vitamin D and these health benefits, rather than showing that increasing a person’s Vitamin D produces these effects) and warrant further research, things are looking very promising for the potential power of something so simple to increase our physical (and mental) health and wellbeing.
So how much of this vitamin do we need and how do we go about getting it?
At present, the recommended amount of Vitamin D is about 400 IU (international units) per day for the average person, but most experts agree that is probably too low. Some experts suggest 2000 IUs per day with some even going as far to say that we need even more than that.
So how do we know how much to take?
Firstly, why supplement with a vitamin that is so easily made by our own body or found in foods that have a whole host of other health benefits themselves? Personally, I would rather scrap that idea and try to get my vitamin D naturally… Just 10-15 minutes of sunshine per day is enough to create all the vitamin D you need. Alternatively, eating just a single 100gram serving of wild fresh salmon can provide you with around 600 – 1,000 IU. Simple, right?
But is there such a thing as too much of a good thing?
The jury is still out on that one with some saying there is no real risk and it’s better to have high levels in your blood than to be deficient, while others say excessive amounts can lead to kidney stones, calcification in blood vessels and other problems. Until there are further studies on the matter it’s all guess work at the moment. However, the benefits in my eyes far out-weigh the risks and I think we should all take certain measures to increase our levels of this important, yet often overlooked, vitamin.
If we make a conscious effort to get outside in the sun and enjoy more of what this world has to offer, not only will your increase blood levels of vitamin D but you can enjoy the knock on effect of being up and active, adding even more health benefits.
So this summer, and all year round for that matter, get outside with family and friends, get active, be social and improve your health & wellbeing more than you could ever imagine.
It definitely beats the alternative of taking pills!
N.B: just to clarify and add a couple of words of caution here:
(i) I am in no way recommending ‘sunbathing’ for hours at a time. The risks and damage caused by excessive exposure to the sun should not be ignored or taken lightly. However, as I said, just 10-15 minutes of sunshine per day is sufficient to allow your body to produce sufficient quantities of vitamin D, so don’t go out and fry yourself to a crisp in the midday sun, just be sensible and try to get outside for a short time every day.
(ii) If you are concerned that you might have a vitamin D deficiency and are considering using a supplement, remember that it is always wise to consult a GP before beginning supplementation with any vitamin.
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