Vitamin D Deficiency is Widespread
Nearly 1 billion people worldwide are likely to have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency as a result of chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure.
The results of a clinical review recently printed in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association show that nearly a billion people across the world may have insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D. It is believed that the lack of vitamin D is the result of minimal exposure to the sun caused by over-use of sunscreen. The study also determined that a whopping 95% of African American adults might have vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency. The variations of vitamin D across races are due to unique levels of skin pigmentation. According to the Endocrine Society, vitamin D deficiency is a level below 20ng/ml. Insufficiency is a level between 21 and 30 ng/ml.
The Problem With Sunscreen
Though it is true that people are spending less time outdoors, they are wearing copious amounts of sunscreen when out and about. Sunscreen mitigates the body's ability to generate vitamin D. This is why sunscreen should be used in a strategic manner. Some unprotected exposure to the sun is necessary to catalyze the body's production of vitamin D. However, only a moderate level of exposure to the sun is healthy.
Additional Ways Vitamin D Production is Inhibited
Chronic diseases related to malabsorption such as celiac disease, Chron's disease, kidney disease and Type 2 Diabetes drastically reduce the body's ability to create vitamin D from food. This vitamin is considered a hormone. It is generated when the skin is subjected to sunlight. Just about every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors. This is precisely why vitamin D plays a vital role in the body's functions ranging from immune system functionality to the minimization of inflammation, cell growth modulation and beyond.
Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency
An individual who is vitamin D deficient or insufficient is more prone to bone fractures and muscle weakness. The chronic diseases outlined above are also another indicator of vitamin D deficiency. An individual who is deficient in vitamin D should have his levels checked. If the levels are determined to be low, the patient should consider treatment options. Boosting and maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D is as simple as spending between five minutes and half an hour in the afternoon sun a couple of times per week.
The specific amount of time necessary to be spent in the sun hinges on one's idiosyncratic skin pigmentation and geographic location. Light skin synthesizes larger amounts of vitamin D than dark skin. Keep in mind that sunscreen with SPF 15 will reduce vitamin D3 by 99%. So one should not apply sunscreen during his 5-30 minute sessions in the sun meant to boost vitamin D levels. This is not to say it is prudent to head to the beach for a full day of sun exposure. The benefits of unprotected sun exposure can be obtained with a simple walk around the block on a sunny afternoon.
Additional Sources of Vitamin D
The sun is not the sole source of vitamin D. Many foods including salmon, eggs, milk and Portobello mushrooms also provide vitamin D. Another option is supplements as they are effective and low-risk, provided they are used as directed and a physician is consulted in advance.
Research is being conducted to determine if vitamin D deficiency plays a role in autoimmune disorders, multiple sclerosis, respiratory disease, cancer, infections, a high fracture risk and cardiometabolic disease. The bottom line is that vitamin D plays a number of important roles in the body. As time progresses, more and more scientists and physicians are publicly espousing the benefits of vitamin D for improved human health.
John A. Jerome. An Osteopathic Approach to Chronic Pain Management. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2017; 117 (5): 306 DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2017.056