Humans do a great job of looking after one another, but sometimes they forget to look after what is most important. It is easy to tell others to eat healthy and take their vitamins but we often fail to recognize those needs for ourselves.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. These are both critical for building bones but studies have shown Vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation.
There have been many high-quality research studies completed that assess the link between lower levels of Vitamin D and risk for all-cause mortality. For example:
A review of 73 cohort studies and 850k people published in 2014 found that adults with lower levels of vitamin D had a 35% increased risk of death from heart disease, 14% greater likelihood of death from cancer, and an all-cause mortality risk increase of 35% (Chowdhury 2014)
People with the lowest vitamin D levels had a 90% greater risk of all-cause mortality compared to the highest vitamin D levels (Garland 2014)
Now, these statistics aren't saying that you NEED Vitamin D to live a longer life. There are many other sources, supplements, and actions that can help improve the longevity of your life! However, don't wait until you are diagnosed to find that it could have been prevented with optimal Vitamin D consumption.
As mentioned above, Vitamin D intake can be connected to reducing the risk of certain cancers and is a great bone builder. In a clinical trial, African Americans' risk went down by 23% when they took Vitamin D supplements. The rates are even better when it's paired with calcium which also aids in bone strength.
Around 4 out of 10 people don't get enough Vitamin D in their daily lives. You may not be consuming enough foods in your diet that contain the vitamin or you may have a health condition that doesn't allow your body to properly process it. But don't worry, here are a few sources of Vitamin D that can be found in foods in your local grocery store:
Herring & Sardines
Vitamin Fortified Foods
Natural sources of Vitamin D can be limited, especially when you don't like fish or are vegetarian; luckily there are food products that don't naturally contain Vitamin D but are fortified with this nutrient that includes:
Cereal & Oatmeal
Most of us are familiar with Vitamin D being linked to UV/sun exposure. It sounds kind of funny when you think about sitting out in the sun to get your intake because too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. However, exposing your skin to moderate amounts while using protection can be very beneficial!
Perry Holman is the executive director of The VitaminD Society and has spent a portion of his career studying the intake and benefits of Vitamin D. He discusses how it works and that, if done safely, UV rays can be a great way for the body to get the needed Vitamin D.
He notes that "when the sun is on an angle or low in the sky as it is in winter or in the early morning or late afternoon and evening, the UVB rays do not get through the atmosphere so you cannot make vitamin D in your skin".
Here is a list of factors to take into consideration:
Prevents UVB from penetrating your skin, and will reduce your production of vitamin D by 95%
Skin Pigmentation & Age
Darker skin tones require more exposure; older people will also need 3x longer in the sun
The capacity to generate vitamin D through the skin decreases with age
Standing up vertically will allow the sun to penetrate your head and shoulders; laying down horizontally will allow much more available skin to be reached