Posted on 08 March 2011
A hint that there might be something to this notion comes from a deluge of recent research by the medical community, that has uncovered a host of heretofore unknown benefits of the “sunshine vitamin”, know as D. While we have long known about the need for vitamin D to build healthy bones, new discoveries point to its role in:
1) developing and maintaining a healthy immune system;
2) anti-inflammatory mechanisms;
3) reducing the risk of developing a variety of cancers.
So, what does sunshine have to do with vitamin D? It turns out, our bodies make an inactive form of D from our own natural pool of cholesterol, but ultraviolet light (UV) from the sun is needed to convert this to active D. Very little D is present in our food (except for oily fish) but all the D we need can be manufactured by our body if we get full skin exposure to summer sun for five to fifteen minutes a day.
If you are lucky enough to live in a city such as Montreal or Toronto, you will notice that winter lasts around five months a year. You may have woken up at 8am in the winter to face a dark night’s sky, then worked an eight-hour day, only to return to more darkness and endless dry skin from the violent wind. Maybe your expensive shoes are encrusted in salt. Maybe your dog drags you back into the house because he can’t bear yet another frigid walk on gravel laden sidewalks. Yes, winter here lasts almost half the year, and during this time, the sun’s rays yield very little of the critical UV, not to mention that the parkas we wear shield our skin from the sun. What to do? Before you happily run off to the local tanning salon with a good excuse to contradict melanoma risks, be aware of vitamin D supplements. One daily tablet of 1000 units suffices. And 2000 might be even better.
You may have overlooked vitamin D in the past, but the research is now conclusive: it is essential to your healthy lifestyle. If you have mastered the art of de-icing a windshield or dressing a child in a snowsuit in the morning in under 5 minutes, popping a D to protect from you winter’s woes should be a cinch!