Gimme a D

This may or may not be good news, depending on whether, as is common these days, we can expect the public-health drones to backpedal or even reverse themselves in a few months. For now, though:

A flurry of recent research indicating that Vitamin D may have a dizzying array of health benefits has reignited an intense debate over whether federal guidelines for the “sunshine vitamin” are outdated, leaving millions unnecessarily vulnerable to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments.

The studies have produced evidence that low levels of Vitamin D make men more likely to have heart attacks, breast and colon cancer victims less likely to survive, kidney disease victims more likely to die, and children more likely to develop diabetes. Two other studies suggested that higher Vitamin D levels reduce the risk of dying prematurely from any cause.

Of course, too high a level of anything isn’t likely to be good for you either:

“We call it a vitamin, but it’s really a steroid,” said Trevor G. Marshall, a molecular biologist at Murdoch University in Australia. “It’s not something we should be playing with.”

Specifically, it’s a secosteroid: the ring structure has some open sides, unlike the case with “ordinary” steroids.

Still, I don’t think I’m lagging in my Vitamin D levels, unlike many of my peers:

With people spending more time indoors surfing the Web, watching television, working at desk jobs, and covering up and using sunblock when they do venture outdoors, the amount of Vitamin D that people create in their bodies has been falling. Milk and a few other foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and it occurs naturally in others, such as fatty fish, but most people get very little through their diets.

“Humans evolved in equatorial Africa wearing no clothes,” said Robert P. Heaney, a leading Vitamin D researcher at Creighton University in Omaha. “Now we get much less direct sunlight, and so we don’t make nearly as much Vitamin D.”

I’m doing my part to soak up those rays — in moderation, of course. Of course, clinical overexposure and legal overexposure are two different concepts, but that’s another matter entirely.

(Swiped from here.)


  1. McGehee »

    5 July 2008 · 12:20 pm

    That settles it — I have got to move to a dryer climate where I can stand to be outdoors when it’s sunny.

  2. fillyjonk »

    5 July 2008 · 5:35 pm

    At the risk of showing my pedantic side yet again, the level of D production is strongly associated with latitude – closer to the equator, you have a better chance of making enough D (my understanding is that cholesterol in the upper layers of the skin is converted to the steroid…actually D maybe should be reclassed as a hormone).

    People in more northerly climes have to depend on diet. So it’s sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t: you can live where it’s miserably hot and sunny during much of the year and make enough D, or live in a more temperate clime but have to load up on the milk or (yuck) sardines in order to get enough. (In fact, some anthropologists believe that the prevalence of lactose-tolerance-into-adulthood of many Northern Europeans – like Scandinavians and British-Isles folks – is an adaptation to cope with not making enough D from the sun. I just say thank God my Irish and Scots genes allow me to drink milk as an adult, because I don’t think I could tolerate the other sources of D…)

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