Lifestyle: Nutrition

Vitamin D3 The Sunshine Vitamin

Do you get enough of the sunshine vitamin?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and pro-hormone found in every cell of the body and is needed for proper cell regulation. Essential for the absorption of calcium, vitamin D is needed for bone growth and for bone health. According to leading experts, vitamin D receptors are found in tissues and organs throughout the body to support the pancreas; heart; blood; muscle; bone and bone marrow; breast; colon; intestines; kidney; lung; prostate; retina; skin and stomach as well as uterine and brain health—positively impacting 36 bodily organs.

Vitamin D plays a role in up to 2,000 genes and an important role in immune system health. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with virtually every chronic disease, indicating the importance of vitamin D in helping with major disease prevention, according to scientific publications.

The truth is that vitamin D is a must-have vitamin that our bodies need to be healthy at every level. Vitamin D comes in two forms: vitamin D2, which is made in plants, and vitamin D3—the preferred form—which is made when cholesterol in our skin cells reacts with sunlight. In this form, it is biologically inactive and must undergo two steps for activation. The first step occurs in the liver, and the second occurs in the kidneys.

Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, but good sources include fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, and fatty fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna. Other sources include mushrooms, eggs, raw milk and products made with whole raw dairy. It has been reported that 75 percent of American teens and adults are vitamin D deficient. Now that’s a problem if only 25 percent of us are getting enough of this health-protecting nutrient.

There are many reasons why people don’t get enough vitamin D. Older people make less vitamin D than younger people when exposed to sunlight. And speaking of sunlight...SPF 8+ sunscreens reduce vitamin D production by 95 percent. Also, if you live north of an imaginary border from Northern California to Boston, then the ultraviolet energy is not enough for vitamin D synthesis for four-to-six months out of the year.

Then there are those who avoid the sun altogether. Other groups at risk are those following low-fat diets, vegans and anybody with poor fat absorption (malabsorption) such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. 

But how much vitamin D is enough? Good question.

According to the Vitamin D Council and several leading vitamin D experts including Dr. Robert Heaney, vitamin D intake of approximately 5,000 IU per day is required to maintain healthy serum levels in the body. Yet the official recommendations still remain at only 400 IU for Daily Value and 600 IU for Recommended Daily Allowance. For this reason, it is important to get your blood levels checked regularly to make sure you are getting enough of the sunshine vitamin—especially if you don’t get much sun.

So, are you getting enough of the sunshine vitamin?


Garden of Life® Senior Director of Nutrition Science & Educational Content

Dawn has been with Garden of Life since 2003. She has a BS in Clinical Dietetics from Leeds (UK) and became a Registered Dietitian in 1980. She worked as a Clinical Dietitian in several London Teaching Hospitals and then joined a specialized Clinical Nutrition company and for 8 years worked her way from sales rep, to regional sales manager to marketing manager. Dawn maintained a Private Nutrition Practice specializing in weight loss and sports nutrition.

Learn more about Dawn

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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