Vitamin D Deficiency – Are You At Risk?

Did you know Vitamin D is critical for heart health as well as cancer prevention? According to The Journal of The American College of Cardiology, Vitamin D deficiencies are prevalent in 30 – 50 percent of the population. Lack of adequate Vitamin D levels can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack. The most common source for Vitamin D is through daily sun exposure.

“There are a whole array of studies linking increased cardiovascular risk with Vitamin D deficiency,” noted Dr. James H. O’Keefe, director of preventive cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. “It is associated with major risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stiffening of the left ventricle of the heart and blood vessels. Inflammation is really important for heart disease, and people with vitamin D deficiency have increased inflammation.”

Vitamin D and cancer

In 2008, a study emerged from Creighton University School of Medicine in Nebraska delivering proof that a clear link exists between Vitamin D supplementation and reducing different types of cancer such as colon, breast, and skin (as well as others). Supplementing your diet with Vitamin D alone can reduce the risk of developing cancer by as much as 77 percent. With all the research and funding spent on cancer research over the last 50 years, this should be very exciting news to anyone who has been touched by cancer. The findings of this research reveal how the benefits of this essential nutrient exceed the effectiveness of cancer drugs used by modern medicine.

In their study, scientists conducted testing on 1,179 post-menopausal women aged 55 and older. The first group were administered 1400-1500 mg daily of calcium and 1100 IU of Vitamin D. The second group was given a placebo. After four years had passed, those who had consistently taken calcium and vitamin D supplements showed a 60 percent decrease in cancers. This amount is nearly three times the recommended daily allowance by the USDA.

“Vitamin D is a critical tool in fighting cancer as well as many other diseases,” stated principal investigator Joan Lappe, Ph.D., R.N., Creighton professor of medicine and holder of the Criss/Beirne Endowed Chair in the School of Nursing.

The Vitamin D Council reports the widespread aspect of Vitamin D deficiency, explaining that in industrialized nations especially, people work jobs from 9 to 5 and receive little to no sun exposure during those times. They also receive recommendations from health authorities to apply sunscreen liberally when they are out in the sun, which blocks UVB rays needed by the skin to produce Vitamin D.

Studies which show the need for Vitamin D status in the body to be near 40 ng/ml reflect how humans have evolved: outdoors in the sun and near the equator, synthesizing robust quantities of Vitamin D in the skin from UVB rays. Research tells us that those living near the equator and sun dwelling hunter gatherers maintain blood levels between 40-80 ng/ml on sun exposure alone. Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, states the following: “Humans make thousands of units of vitamin D within minutes of whole body exposure to sunlight. From what we know of nature, it is unlikely such a system evolved by chance.”

Deficiencies in children at 70 percent

According to an article from CNN (August, 2009), 70 percent of children were deficient in this critical Vitamin. This type of deficiency contributes to early onset health issues that previously were unseen until much later years of age such as high blood pressure and lower levels of good cholesterol. Vitamin D deficiency also contributes to the risk of cardiovascular disease developing later in life. Nearly 60% of children in this paper from 2016 were found to be deficient in Vitamin D. Although the number of 70 percent deficiency in children has been shown to have decreased, we think we need to do better.

Why are children deficient? Mainstream health advisories by doctors and other health sources advise parents to ensure children avoid sun exposure unless covered in sunscreen. Sunscreen effectively reduces the body’s ability to synthesize Vitamin D properly. As discussed above from the USDA Dietary Recommendations, guidelines provided actually steer us away from consuming real foods which contain Vitamin D and important co-factors.

Since the 70s, children’s diets have become increasingly lacking in critical nutrients such as Vitamin D. Most sunscreen contains toxic chemicals that are absorbed through the skin (absorbs 10 times more than the digestive tract) into the body and must be filtered through the liver, and blocks absorption of the important natural components of real Vitamin D.

The other problem which prevents children from maintaining enough Vitamin D in their bodies instead of eating healthy-sourced seafood, meat, butter, and eggs, they typically consume processed foods with artificial ingredients, chemicals and refined carbohydrates.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Protein
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Oils 

A “Healthy Eating Pattern Limits” saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium.

Example sources:

  • Added sugars, cola and a muffin
  • Saturated fats, an ice cream sundae and a hamburger
  • Sodium, pepperoni pizza and a submarine sandwich.  

The “Example Meal” given is:

  • lettuce and celery
  • whole-grain bread
  • apples and grapes
  • fat-free milk
  • chicken breast with unsalted walnuts
  • mayonnaise

The literature emphasizes focusing on variety, nutrient density, and amount. Yet, the dairy and protein recommended is chicken breast which is the least nutrient-dense portion of the bird and fat-free milk. These options are the least nutrient-dense. Chicken breast and fat-free milk lack fat-soluble nutrients found in fats such as Vitamin A, D and other fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, critical for health and absorption of co-nutrients that will enable the nutrition to be utilized by the body properly. Fat-free milk contains synthetic Vitamin A and D, which are toxic to the body and difficult, if not impossible, to absorb.

No mention is made of the source of the food – whether it is organic or conventional. Organic foods are more nutrient-dense than conventional foods. Conventional foods are also grown with chemical pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs and other harmful substances which contribute to health issues.  

USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest fat-free or low-fat dairy or soy foods and beverages or other fortified foods, lean meats and poultry, grains (at least half of which are whole grain), and other processed foods that have been fortified but do not contain real nutrients the body can use.

Vitamin D toxicity

Certain levels of Vitamin D are considered toxic by mainstream health care sources, but the reason these would be considered toxic is because they are from artificial supplementation, rather than the natural variety obtained from sunlight and diet. As many of us are still low in this important nutrient. Should you choose to supplement, we recommend testing Vitamin D levels prior to taking Vitamin D supplements. Read more from the Weston A. Price Foundation about Vitamin D testing.

Optimal sources of Vitamin D

The optimal source for Vitamin D is regular outside exposure to the sun without sunscreen. Spending just a few minutes in the sun daily will provide you with minimal levels. Repeated, moderate exposure to allow your body to acclimate to sun exposure will allow you to avoid sunburn and provide you with optimal levels necessary for good health. If you haven’t been out in the sun much this season, go out for numerous days in a row for short periods of time to build up sun exposure at longer intervals over time. This is the best way to receive regular sun and allow your skin time to be able to receive more sun exposure without damage as time goes on.

If you are just coming out of the cold and winter months and have had little or no exposure, start out gradually with 10 or 15 minutes and slowly increase your time over a few weeks until you have provided your body a chance to tolerate being in the sun for longer periods of time.

Most sunscreen contains toxic chemicals that are absorbed through the skin (absorbs 10 times more than the digestive tract) into the body and must be filtered through the liver, and blocks absorption of the important natural components of real Vitamin D.

Some health experts encourage the use of supplements in order to obtain nutrients like Vitamin D.  Most supplements are synthetically produced and do not include important co-factor nutrients including Vitamin A, K2, and minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and thus should be avoided.

Best dietary sources of Vitamin D include meats, eggs, and raw dairy products from sustainable sources where animals and fowl are on pasture – butter, soy-free bacon, grass-fed meats, raw milk, whole milk yogurt, seafood such as wild-caught salmon, tilapia, trout, tuna, sea bass, cod liver oil, and mollusks like clams, oysters, mussels, squid, and octopus.

Making sure you obtain adequate K2 in your diet is essential to being able to absorb and convert UVA rays from the sun in the body to readily-absorbed Vitamin D. Sources of K2 include raw butter, cream, and fermented dairy foods such as kefir and yogurt from healthy cows raised on pasture, cheeses such as Edam and Gouda, and natto, a form of fermented soy. We recommend these supplements for natto:

For more discussion on Vitamin D and sources, visit the Weston A. Price Foundation.

For a current guide on safe seafood sources, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium site.

Cover image: https://unsplash.com/photos/uawRUmJw3_0

Jordan Stewart

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