Everyone loves a little sunshine in their lives- it puts smiles on faces, children spend more time outdoors and it reminds me of eating ice cream. But have you ever stopped to think about how essential the sun is to our well being?
Vitamin D, although technically not a vitamin, is a pro-hormone that helps to absorb and balance our levels of calcium in our body. However vitamin D, or more so the lack of, has been a hot topic in both the medical and nutrition world.
Where do we get vitamin D?
The best source of vitamin D is through the sun. We also consume dietary sources through oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), eggs, and fortified foods like dairy spreads, orange juice and cereals however dietary vitamin D is not enough to meet our needs.
What is vitamin D deficiency?
It seems everyone is vitamin D deficient these days largely due to the amount of time most Australians spend indoors as well as a greater awareness in testing of levels that is identifying more people at risk. However apart from poor bone health, I began thinking about whether there were any other impacts of vitamin D deficiency; many of my clients wishing to lose weight seem to have the 'lack lustre' status and I wondered whether there was a link.
I had to consult my very first (and dusty) nutrition textbook to understand the basic role of vitamin D in the body. It's a complex system of conversions but put simply, the UVB rays from the sun activates vitamin D3 in the skin and/or, we eat sources of vitamin D in foods and supplements. The liver converts both D3 and D2 to another form of vitamin D (1-25OH) which is further processed again in the kidneys, which influences our cells to absorb more calcium and phosphate in the intestines and bones.
It turns out there is lots of research about the strong link between vitamin D deficiency and chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and depression. Another interesting thing to note from studies is that if vitamin D levels increase in the body, insulin resistance decreases, allowing our body's fuel system to work efficiently and effectively. Insulin resistance is the main glitch that occurs in conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome where excess insulin is released to compensate for poor glucose use in the muscle. The bummer about high insulin levels is that it promotes fat storage. So if vitamin D levels are returned to normal, I wonder if this just may help those battling to move some inches?
Although it's not as simple as this, it may be one small thing that just ensures we have ourselves covered for healthy bones and healthy metabolism. Spending a little extra time in low risk sunshine (before 10am and after 2pm) or taking a supplement (through the advice of your doctor or dietitian) may just help with more vitamin D in the body which may help with reducing the risk of developing other conditions.
I prefer the idea of getting outside and enjoying your morning coffee on the back porch or rolling up your sleeves when hanging out the washing (there's nothing healthy about a tan!). But there is nothing better than that strong kick of endorphins and euphoria when those warm rays bathe down on your face on a sunny day...
** With all medical and health issues, it's imperative to consult your doctor or dietitian for tailored advice regarding your personal situation before commencing any changes. This article is written to inform and like anything, a balanced diet and regular activity is important to maintain health and well being.
The way to Carla's heart is all things food. Follow her thoughts and opinions on the latest food news and myths.