A hot week is ahead. And while many of us try to keep cool with big hats, umbrellas and shaded trees, we could be hurting ourselves down the road, according to some doctors.
Days spent outside are limited for Greg Mattingly, working as a financial planner.
“I tan red. So, I tend to try and stay out of the sun for the most part,” says Mattingly.
A recent physical revealed he has low levels of Vitamin D.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know what Vitamin D was or did,” he says.
We all have it. Sunlight helps our skin produce Vitamin D. It helps us absorb calcium and promotes bone growth. But you might not be getting enough says Tom Sherman with Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Physiology.
“Many studies have revealed that children, the elderly, people who are consciously avoiding the sun are being found to be low in Vitamin D,” says Sherman.
And that might impact your health more than you know. Recent studies by Dr. Leena Clarke found Vitamin D actually protected mice against some cancers like breast and endometrial.
“The animals that got the Vitamin D and were obese, that diet totally protected the animals. So, their risk of cancer was clearly the lowest,” says Clarke.
Low Vitamin D has also been linked to depression, diabetes, even obesity.
“It seems perhaps thirty minutes a week, direct exposure to sunlight is enough,” says Clarke.
But with skin cancer concerns, not everyone wants to soak up rays. So, what do you do?
Unlike many vitamins, you won’t find the D-kind in those colorful veggies.
“It’s not found in many of the foods that we eat. And it’s certainly not found in the junk food we eat,” says Sherman.
But there are some things you should be putting in your shopping car. First on the list is seafood.
“Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, blue fish. Any of these fish that we think of as being oily or being fatty are going to be our best sources,” says Sherman.
Those concerned about heavy metals should stick to smaller fish like sardines and anchovies.
Next on the list is eggs. Vitamin D is found only in the yolk.
“If you look on the label, it will say a good source of Vitamin D, B12, E and that’s because these chickens would have been supplemented with these vitamins,” says Sherman.
And don’t forget the dairy aisle. Look for milk supplemented with D.
“This would be about 20 percent of the daily,” says Sherman.
A simple blood test can tell if you are Vitamin D deficient. Most doctors treat this with supplements.
“A multi-vitamin will contain 400 units of Vitamin D. And that’s probably a good minimum amount for many, many people,” according to Sherman.
Greg Mattingly’s doctor started him on weekly pills. He finds out next month if his levels improved.
“After I started taking the supplement, I noticed I had a little more energy. I didn’t need quite so much caffeine,” says Mattingly.
And he is trying to get outside more for lunch to get some Vitamin D the natural way.
Dr. Clarke says some studies have shown supplements might not be good for people at risk of colon cancer. So, as always, it is best to talk with your own doctor.
To read more about Vitamin D:
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