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Zorba Paster: Consider A Supplement For Vitamin D

You Don’t Get Vitamin D Unless You’re Out In The Sun Every Day

Vitamin D pills
Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Dear Doc: I’m a saleswoman, riding in my car all day long, going from convenience store to convenience store to stock greeting card racks. It’s a job that I like, but it doesn’t get me outside much. I wonder about vitamin D. Since the sun is shining through the windshield, am I making the stuff as I drive? My friend says no way. What’s the scoop? – E.B. from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Dear E.B.: Your friend is right. Our bodies don’t make vitamin D with sunlight through glass. You need that solar radiation straight up. But how much sun do you really need to get enough vitamin D? That depends on the time of year and where the sun is in the sky.

Researchers in Spain went out of their way to answer this question. In Valencia, a city rather warmer most of the year than Oklahoma City, you would need to have 20 minutes of sun exposure in the summer and two hours in the winter for vitamin D purposes.

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If you came up to my part of the country, Wisconsin, you’d need to expose 10 percent of your body to the sun for about two hours — that’s in December. Of course, you’d be crazy to do so at that time of year, unless you happen to be a nutty Green Bay Packers fan yelling, “Go, Pack, Go!” at Lambeau Field.

So are we getting enough vitamin D? First off, let’s look at kids. Rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D deficiency in children, is a thing of the past thanks to the addition of vitamin D to milk, which occurred back in the 1930s.

But the issue for adults is one of continuous controversy. Let’s not forget that we are forever telling people to stay out of the sun because of skin cancer. Because we may not get the sun we need for optimal levels of vitamin D, what does that mean for our health?

Back it up for a minute to look at why vitamin D is so important. First, consider osteoporosis and bone fractures. These are big problems, especially in my state of Wisconsin — we are No. 1 in the country for falls by adults that result in pelvic fractures, a statistic I’m not proud of. You need calcium and vitamin D to make your bones strong, something that’s especially important for post-menopausal women who are at the highest risk for fractures.

Then there are other provocative studies such as some showing the more vitamin D in your body, the better your balance and the less your chances of falling. Other studies show vitamin D might make statins work better in reducing cholesterol and your risk of heart attacks and stroke. And finally, there are a few studies that indicate insufficient levels of vitamin D might be a risk factor in some cancers.

Wow. If this were true, then vitamin D really would be the wonder vitamin. Really? Well, if something sounds too good to be true, as my Mom said — guess what? — it’s too good to be true. However, when a practice as simple as taking 2,000 IU per day of vitamin D3, the kind you find in any drug store, might help your body stay strong, why not do it?

My spin: You don’t get vitamin D from the sun unless you’re out in the sun every day — and that isn’t good for your skin. So think about a D supplement, 2,000 IU a day. It’s a cheap pill that just might keep you healthy. Stay well.