Mar 12, 2012

The Sunshine Vitamin

By Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS

Santa Barbara’s mountain trails and ocean waves create the perfect opportunity to engage in numerous outdoor activities. There is something about our city that makes you want to be in the open-air. Add in a perfect dose of sunshine nearly every day of the year and making plans to enjoy the outdoors is as easy as spray on sunscreen!  Did you know that just being in the sun actually increases your mood, promotes good immune system function, helps mineralize your bones and decreases the chances of stroke, diabetes and cardiac disease? All of these outcomes are the result of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. When UVB light hits the skin, a reaction occurs that causes cholesterol to stimulate Vitamin D production. While some foods are fortified with the vitamin, the best way for your body to get the amount it needs is from the sun. Just 10-15 minutes 3 days per week without sun block can greatly change the structure of your body chemistry.

Because the easiest and most efficient means of getting this nutrient comes from UVB light, those with little exposure to the outdoors can suffer from deficiency in this vitamin. Countries at northern latitudes, people with indoor occupations, and even cities with high volumes of air pollution can contribute to a shortage of this vitamin’s synthesis. Vitamin D’s main function is to aid calcium absorption and facilitate bone mineralization.  Today, most dairy products contain added vitamin D to ensure calcium is properly used and to protect against the development of rickets in children and osteoporosis in older adults.

One of the neatest things about Vitamin D is its ability to increase mood and physical performance. In 2005, the American Society for Mineral and Bone research concluded that after tested, a control group performed better in a balance and strength test than those with low serum levels of the vitamin. The latter group also greatly increased in performance after a boost in vitamin D! In addition, another group tested revealed that pre-weight loss, having high levels of vitamin D aided overall abdominal fat loss!

With all these awesome benefits, it is easy to see that this sunshine vitamin is a miracle worker.  Currently, it is recommended to get between 1,000-2,000 IU of the vitamin per day, but physicians around the globe are rallying for more. Thankfully, Santa Barbara provides plenty of sunlight and clear, warm days to encourage movement outside even in the winter months! Surely, Prevail Clients, you are at least a little more motivated to move about outside. If not, here is one more cool fact to mull over: Vitamin D actually promotes expression of an antimicrobial gene—that means your immune system is kicking cold-season to the curb every time you go for a hike, play beach volleyball or walk down State Street. Pretty cool, huh?

Bowden, Jonny. healthy solutions. VITAMIN D, revisited: Low levels of vitamin D can affect everything from your mood to your ability to lose weight.. Mar2011. 73. Better Nutrition, 2011. 28-30. Web. .d8ab2444db3f@sessionmgr13&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==>.

Dopart, Susan, and Jeffrey Batchelor. A Recipe for Life by the Doctor's Dietitian. Santa Monica, CA: SGJ Publishing, 2009. Print.

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