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Are We Still Taking Vitamin D?

Are We Still Taking Vitamin D?

Several years ago I was told I had a vitamin D deficiency according to bloodwork in an annual exam. I followed the instructions, got a vitamin D supplement, and took it inconsistently for a few days. Today the full jar is still rolling around the back of the medicine cabinet. This week a study was published as part of a series of studies (called VITAL) that has found many things vitamin D purportedly supported, don’t hold merit in large studies. The condition that was published this week was: bone strength. Vitamin D deficiencies have almost tripled since 1975. I can't help but wonder if the condition has really become more common, or if testing for it has become more frequent.

The New York Times reports that the recent study for bone health follows a long string of debunked claims that vitamin D was supposed to protect against. “The first part of VITAL, previously published, found that vitamin D did not prevent cancer or cardiovascular disease in trial participants. Nor did it prevent falls, improve cognitive functioning, reduce atrial fibrillation, change body composition, reduce migraine frequency, improve stroke outcomes, protect against macular degeneration or reduce knee pain. Another large study, in Australia, found that people taking the vitamin did not live longer.” Most foods that are “fortified” with additives like vitamin D are to market foods that are processed and stripped of their natural ingredients and then “enhanced” with something like vitamin D to make the food processing appear healthier than the original version. (Looking at you, Big Milk.) Interestingly a rise in vitamin D deficiency also fits within the same window of most people having general fear of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen became normal in the 1990s and leading tech-reliant lifestyles that are indoors more than outdoors. What do we know about vitamin D, diet, supplements, and sun exposure? There doesn’t seem to be one clear set of guidelines. The right balance will likely be highly individualized, with each person finding what fits them best. Sunscreen will block the vitamin D production process that is related to sun exposure. Recently it’s been found that several of the chemicals in sunscreen are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Additionally, there have been several recalls for toxins found in sunscreens that were never supposed to be there in the first place.

Michael Krummer, a health and fitness professional writes on his transition from relying heavily on sun protection to only using sunscreen during prolonged sun exposure. In his blog, he lists the benefits of reasonable sun exposure such as:

  • Supports a healthy circadian rhythm, daytime alertness and sleep.

  • Triggers vitamin D production.

  • Supports testosterone production.

  • Influences the release of hormones, including serotonin and melatonin.

  • Improved calcium absorption.

  • Triggers the production of melanin.

  • Reduces the risk of developing seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Krummer also adds, “in a nutshell, you should use mineral-based sunscreens that don’t have fragrances or ingredients that contain the phrases “benz” or “phen” anywhere in the ingredient name. Infamous examples of such endocrine-disrupting chemicals include Benzophenone (BP) and 4-Methylbenzylidene (4-MBC). At the end of the day, a vitamin D deficiency taps into several health-related markets. The supplement market leans heavily on vitamin D. Not just on its own but vitamin D is a key player in most multivitamin compounds. It calls into question if the average healthy person needs to be testing for vitamin D in their lab work. It affects food marketing, and even sunscreen.

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