Vitamin D has been in the news a lot recently and for good reasons. Despite what the media may suggest, Vitamin D deficiency is definitely not a new sensation. Here in the UK, vitamin D levels have been declining for many years but as the research improves, so does the awareness. So this month I will discuss why vitamin D is such an important element of health and fitness.
Many people automatically assume that calcium is the go-to mineral to improve the health and strength of human bones. Although this is true, as with many health and fitness trends, there is a missing component. Calcium does not bond very well (if at all) to the bone unless there is a sufficient level of vitamin D in the system. Simply consuming large amounts of calcium will not guarantee strong bones.
Studies on early humans have shown that despite a lack of calcium from such foods as dairy, they still had strong non-porous bones. This is down to the combination of being outside in the sunshine and performing physical tasks. In modern times this is substituted with weight training and taking a vitamin D supplement.
Human skin can produce lots of vitamin D when large amounts of skin are exposed to sunlight. Your body is designed to get the vitamin D it needs by producing it when your bare skin is exposed to sunlight. However, the sun needs to be strong enough for this to happen but unfortunately we are so ‘sun scared’ due to incorrect media attention that we cover ourselves in sun cream and clothing before we have had a chance to become exposed to the sun. Therefore, the very few months of the year where we could actually allow our bodies to produce vitamin D, we block it.
I am definitely not suggesting that we spend hours exposed to the sun in the height of summer. However, we do need to build up our resilience. We can do this by going out in the sun for 5 minutes before applying sun protection. We can then build up the time to an appropriate level in order to allow our bodies to produce vitamin D without burning.
I personally have been supplementing with vitamin D for over a decade and have used it to great effect when being caught in the sun and looking that classic ‘Brits Abroad’ shade of red. Consuming a high dosage of the supplement form of vitamin D prior to bed allowed me to wake the next morning back to my normal skin tone. I personally have also found that consuming medium to high dosages of vitamin D for a few weeks before going into the sun can allow you to be exposed to the sun for longer without burning.
I must state that you should consult a doctor or other professional medical health practitioner before exposing yourelf to the sun for long periods.
Other than simply getting that perfect bronze colour on holiday, vitamin D has a multitude of health benefits. Boosting your immune system to help fight colds and flu, regulating insulin levels to aid diabetes management and supporting lung and cardiovascular health are just some of the health benefits this long lost vitamin supplies us with. My advice? Source out a good quality vitamin D supplement and spend time in the sunshine whenever you can… Speedos are optional.