After decades of being told to avoid the sun by many doctors and the media, now some leading researchers are telling us just the opposite!
The problem began back in the 70’s when everyone was warned of the dangers of getting too much sun and then all those ‘sun blocker lotions’ hit the market. As a nation, we began to really take all this to heart and collectively moved from the outdoors into electronic ‘man caves’ where we’ve been lurking ever since. (If you think I’m wrong, just take a hard look at how pasty white everyone looks at the local market)! As a result, many of us (especially dark skinned individuals) are not getting enough vitamin D, a substance that is now thought to be one of the best anticancer agentsever discovered! How bad is it? Well, according to the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), some ‘600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancers could be prevented each year if everyone would just maintain effective levels of vitamin D3’!
So, how’s it made (for techno’s)?
Although vitamin D is firmly enshrined as one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, it is not technically a vitamin. True, it’s essential for health, and only minuscule amounts are required. But it breaks the other rules for vitamins because it’s produced in the human body, it’s absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks, and even when it’s obtained from foods, it must be transformed by the body before it can do any good.
Vitamin D is not one chemical but many. The natural type is produced in the skin from a universally present form of cholesterol, 7-dehydrocholesterol. Sunlight is the key: Its ultraviolet B (UVB)
energy converts the precursor to vitamin D3. In contrast, most dietary supplements are manufactured by exposing a plant sterol to ultraviolet energy, thus producing vitamin D2. Because their function is almost identical, D2 and D3 are lumped together under the name vitamin D — but neither will function until the body works its magic (see graphic).
The first stop is in the liver, where vitamin D picks up extra oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 25-hydroxyvitamin D,or 25(OH)D. This is the chemical that doctors should measure to diagnose vitamin D deficiencies. But although 25(OH)D is used for diagnosis, it can’t function until it travels to the kidney. There it acquires a final pair of oxygen and hydrogen molecules to become 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D; scientists know this active form of the vitamin as 1,25(OH)2D, or calcitriol, but for ordinary folks, like you and me, the name vitamin D is accurate enough. [ Harvard Health Publications].
What can be taken away from this last techno-babble is that, absent your ability to get enough sun, you could take a Vitamin D supplement! But, be forewarned that this may or may not do as good a job as the old sol. Even the venerable Readers Digest has suggested; ‘Get a little sun. Just 10 to 15 minutes of midday sunshine (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) several days a week may do the trick (apply sunscreen after those few minutes)’. Sounds like fine advice to me!