It has long been known that vitamin D is a potent weapon against a wide variety of diseases and ailments. Deficiency in the vitamin will leave you at increased risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as immune system dysfunction, neuropsychiatric conditions like depression and bone diseases like osteoporosis. [R]
Vitamin D’s Awesome Power
Vitamin D is perhaps most appropriately classified as a steroid hormone rather than a vitamin. It is derived either through the action of ultraviolet light on the skin, which causes a particular form of cholesterol to convert into a form of vitamin D, or through dietary sources, including supplementation. Some of the best whole-food sources include fish (cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines) and milk.
Although the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, which generally used to be associated with rickets (a disease that causes softening of the bones), was reduced in the United States by programmes including milk fortification, physicians have noted an increase in deficiency in recent decades, including a return of rickets in children. In China, studies have led to estimates that around 40% of the population suffer from vitamin D deficiency in winter, and a similar percentage is suggested for the global population. [R]
And while vitamin D can be consumed through dietary sources, most experts agree that it is difficult to reach the recommended daily amounts through diet alone. As a result, exposure to sunlight or supplementation is necessary to consume enough.
With regard to sunlight exposure, the time of year, time of day, geographic latitude, cloud cover, pollution, skin melanin content (i.e. skin darkness), and sunscreen use all affect UV radiation exposure and vitamin D synthesis. For many, as a result, it will be necessary to supplement with vitamin D to ensure recommended daily amounts are met.
The issue of vitamin D deficiency has taken on an added significance during the current Coronavirus pandemic, in light of a recent Spanish study on the effects of oral administration of fortified vitamin D to Coronavirus patients.
Scientists at Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar discovered that doses of vitamin D ‘reduced mortality of more than 60 percent’, and that patients were 80% less likely to require ICU treatment if they were treated with the vitamin.
Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar
Although the paper detailing the study’s results is still awaiting peer review and publication, it supports the conclusions of a previous trial in Cordoba, where similarly dramatic reductions in ICU treatment and death were observed. [R]
The stunning results of the study have led to calls, including from politicians, for vitamin D supplementation to be an integral part of Coronavirus treatment. The British MP David Davis hailed the study as ‘very important’ and added that ‘these approaches… are overdue’ and could ‘save many thousands of lives’. [R]
US recommended daily intakes for vitamin D
Presented above are the US recommended daily intakes. It should be noted that in other countries, the recommended intakes may be significantly higher. Many influencers suggest supplementing between 5000-10000IU per day. From an anecdotal perspective, I have noticed significant improvements to my general wellbeing since actively seeking sun and supplementing at least 5000IU per day.
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