Sunshine, Vitamin D, and a Whopping Public Health Mistake
Vitamin D is crucial for optimal health, and it’s freely available to us when we bask in sunshine. But skin doctors warn that unprotected exposure to summer sunlight raises the risk that one will develop skin cancer. So people have been reluctant to get out and get sun freely. That’s understandable. There’s no arguing that too much sun ages the skin prematurely, and appears to increase skin cancer risk. But it’s also true that most of us need additional vitamin D.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends supplementation when food sources are inadequate. Supplementation is safe and inexpensive. But up until now, the government body that helps set dietary intake guidelines for nutrients such as vitamin D—the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine (NAS-IOM)—has recommended that most people try to get about 600 IU vitamin D3 daily. That’s from all sources, including fish and dairy.
I’ve always believed that this recommendation was set too low. All of the scientific evidence to date seems to suggest that people can—and should—consider taking 2,000 to 5,000 IU vitamin D3 daily for best results. That’s considerably higher than the present official recommendation. But the official recommendation never made sense to me. Now it appears I was right all along.
“…Studies suggest that the IOM underestimated the requirement substantially," said Cedric F. Garland, Dr.P.H. "The error has broad implications for public health regarding disease prevention and achieving the stated goal of ensuring that the whole population has enough vitamin D to maintain bone health.” Current guidelines recommend that people up to 70 years of age consume 600 IU of vitamin D from dietary sources daily. After 70, they recommend 800 IU per day. “Calculations by us and other researchers have shown that these doses are only about one-tenth those needed to cut incidence of diseases related to vitamin D deficiency," Garland explained.
Robert Heaney, M.D., of Creighton University wrote: "We call for the NAS-IOM and all public health authorities concerned with transmitting accurate nutritional information to the public to designate, as the RDA, a value of approximately 7,000 IU/day from all sources.”
"This intake is well below the upper level intake specified by IOM as safe for teens and adults, 10,000 IU/day," Garland said. What do you think? Are you getting enough of this important vitamin/hormone? It’s virtually impossible to get this amount from food alone. That leaves supplementation or brief sun exposure to make up the difference. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
American Academy of Dermatology. "Sun exposure, vitamin D levels and mortality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 July 2014. .
Paul Veugelers, John Ekwaru. A Statistical Error in the Estimation of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D. Nutrients, 2014; 6 (10): 4472 DOI: 10.3390/nu6104472Mercedes Clemente-Postigo, Araceli Muñoz-Garach, Marta Serrano, Lourdes Garrido-Sánchez, M. Rosa Bernal-López, Diego Fernández-García, Inmaculada Moreno-Santos, Nuria Garriga, Daniel Castellano-Castillo, Antonio Camargo, Jose M. Fernandez-Real, Fernando Cardona, Francisco J. Tinahones, Manuel Macías-González. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Adipose Tissue Vitamin D Receptor Gene Expression: Relationship With Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015; jc.2014-3016 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2014-3016