When the longer daylight hours and sunshine rays of summer fade into fall and winter, it’s easier to fall behind in your vitamin D levels—which is why sometimes we need a gentle, but firm, reminder to keep our vitamin D levels up.
Just ask Joan Lappe, Ph.D., professor of medicine and holder of the Criss/Beirne Endowed Chair in the Creighton School of nursing. She says that if you live in North America at latitudes above the 37th parallel, not only are you not getting enough sunshine, but you’re also not getting enough vitamin D.
“From October until the end of March, the angle of the sun is such that, in much of North America, no vitamin D is available from that source. What that means is most of us are deficient in vitamin D this time of year,” says Lappe.
Even during a mild winter, the northern half of the country doesn’t get enough UV to power sufficient skin production of vitamin D. This typically results in having the lowest vitamin D levels at the close of the cold-weather season—and that can be hazardous to your health. In fact, some experts believe that a vitamin D deficiency might even be a year-round occurrence due to high-powered sunscreen use.
To make sure people don’t fall short of this all-important nutrient, Lappe recommends taking vitamin D3—the same form of the vitamin that humans make from exposure to the sun.
Why is it so important to keep a steady vitamin D supply? Glad you asked!
Not only do you need vitamin D for strong bones and a robust immune system, but it is also necessary for cellular, heart and overall health. It also plays a role in areas you may not have guessed. For example, the UV Foundation explains that low vitamin D levels can lead to fatigue, depression, aches and pains.
In fact, it’s a vitamin needed at the cellular level in the body, since every cell in the body is now known to have vitamin D receptors. Put simply, vitamin D is essential for healthy and normal DNA and cellular replication—the basis of what makes us up.
For older adults, the stakes get even higher when it comes to a vitamin D deficiency. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM), indicates that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased mortality in aging adults. Lead researcher of the study said that a “vitamin D insufficiency (defined as blood levels less than 20ng/ml) was associated with nearly a 50 percent increase in the mortality rate in older adults.” The “older adults,” by the way, were subjects aged 70 to 79.
Additionally, the researchers said that vitamin D levels under 30ng/mL were associated with “increased all-cause mortality.”
On the bright side, however, other studies indicated that higher levels of vitamin D (50 to 70 ng/mL provide optimal health risk protection. People of all ages should have their vitamin D blood saturation checked regularly—particularly during cold-weather months when they can come up short—and supplement as necessary to keep vitamin D levels in the ideal range.
And that’s your radiant reminder.