August 26, 2021 Activated Vitamin D levels
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that vitamin D levels are very important to good health. Research has shown that obesity and diabetes are linked to low levels of vitamin D. They’re also associated with higher death rates or severe COVID-19 symptoms.
I noticed that Vitamin D was given in hospitals to treat COVID, but now research has shown that it was not helpful. Why the discrepancy? It is becoming clear through work being done in The University of Toronto, for example, that dietary Vitamin D is not as important as activated Vitamin D derived from exposure to sunlight.
Also very interesting is that it is harder to activate Vitamin D if your skin tone is darker, which may partially explain higher COVID-19 rates among certain demographics. Perhaps this might be part of the reason behind higher rates of diabetes in black patients. I know that research will be done for many years on this topic and may shed light on to the etiology of certain disease states and will be the basis of better healthcare in the future.
I was unaware before the pandemic and all the new research that multiple sclerosis was caused by a lack of activated vitamin D. Previously, MS was believed to be genetic because it was more common in certain countries while being almost absent in others. But better research showed that someone from a country free of MS could move to the high risk country and contract the disease. Perhaps the person “caught” the disease, i.e., it was not genetic, but infectious. However, further studies identified the fact that high incidence countries were in the northern part of the Earth, with long dark winters and cloudy, rainy summers, like in England and Holland. Without sunny days, there is less activated vitamin D and therefore a higher risk of acquiring multiple sclerosis.
An interesting thought: The Covid death rate seemed to be higher in older patients that were in nursing homes versus older patients living at home. An 85 year old that was able to go outside and be exposed to the sun did better than an 85 year old stuck inside all day in the nursing home.
When I was a kid in the 1960’s, we put oil on our skin and used a tin foil board to increase sun rays on our skin. Then skin cancer reports led to the use of sun screens in the 80’s or so. People used hats, sunglasses and fancy clothes that block sunlight. Then, 10 or 15 years ago, doctors began to notice that many patients were low in vitamin D levels and an increased rate of osteoporosis. The recommendation was to take vitamin D pills.
The pandemic has now made it clear of the importance of activated D over dietary D. How do we activate our Vitamin D level without increasing the chance of skin cancer? This is one of the frustrating choices that patients face: conflicting information. But in this case I can offer a very helpful bit of information.
There are different types of Ultraviolet radiation in the sun’s rays. UV A is the type that gives you sunburn and skin cancer. It is UV B however, that activates Vitamin D. UV A is predominant at mid-day, from about 10 AM to 4 PM. UV B is predominant closer to sunrise and sunset. The best time is the last 2 hours of the day. This is August so the best time to get some sun would be 6 PM since the sun sets around 8 PM. Go outside and take a walk for a half hour or so. It’s okay if you are sitting still, too. But, with a business name like mine, “Walk Healthy”, you know that I would prefer you to be walking!!
Good sources of dietary Vitamin D are:
Oily fish like salmon or sardines
I take 1000 IU of Vitamin D everyday. More than that is not necessary. I’ve seen 2000 IU’s and even more. But Vitamin D is one of the fat soluble vitamins and can build up in your system, so I don’t think it’s necessary to take those super high doses and could be unhealthy.
Since the pandemic, I am making sure that I am outside for at least an hour or two every day. I am commuting on the NYC subway system and treat patients. The vaccine is protective, but I am interested in keeping my immune system tip top. I want you to do the same. Eat foods high in Vitamin D, take 600 – 1000 IU’s of Vitamin D supplement and go outside every afternoon for at least a half hour. Talk a walk!