It’s time for another interview with our new favorite nutritionist, Maria Berglund Rantén, and today we’ll talk about vitamin D. Or, to be correct, it’s actually about vitamin D3 (there are two different forms of vitamin D).
– So, how many people have vitamin D deficiency?
– There are studies from many different parts of the world that show that up to one billion people in the world have vitamin D deficiency – an extremely large number. This doesn’t only apply to people up North, it turns out that even in Miami and Sydney, in the midst of their summer, people have low levels of vitamin D too. With globally widespread vitamin deficiency chronically bad health has increased.
– It’s crazy that people who live in countries with much more sun than us in Sweden would lack a vitamin that you can easily get from the sun?
– I agree, it sounds crazy, but the fact is that people have become so insanely afraid to be out in the sun without sunscreen. It’s like we’ve been brainwashed by the entire sunscreen and dermatology industry that we will get cancer as soon as we’re out in the sun. Many people are really afraid and cover themselves and their children with sunscreen all day long. When using SPF 15 or more, you counteract the body’s chance of producing this valuable vitamin by 99%. In addition, we are moving less now than before. Children (and adults) can often find it hard to find things to do and feel bored outside (it’s so easy to get instant kicks from their mobile or iPad).
– But should you not use sunscreen?
– Of course you should protect yourself from not getting burned and prevent skin cancer, but we must get rid of the fear we have for the sun. Did you know that all cells in the body have vitamin D receptors? This means that your entire body is dependent on this vital vitamin to function normally and to be healthy. Sufficient or even better, optimal levels of vitamin D can prevent various cancers, chronic and autoimmune diseases, various inflammatory diseases, Crohns, diabetes, MS, infections, respiratory/pulmonary disorders, cardiovascular symptoms, depression and fractures. Have you noticed that some people, young and old, quite easily get fractures? If that is due to only a vitamin D deficiency, damaged intestinal villi that obstructs the absorption of vitamins and minerals needed to build the skeleton, or just bad luck is hard to say without testing …
– It’s interesting that deficiency can lead to depression. Many Swedes have low energy and are feeling depressed during the winter.
– Right! Vitamin D can be both an effective and inexpensive way to prevent depression. The body needs vitamin D to be able to produce serotonin. Imagine a person who always wears sunscreen during the summer, does not eat supplements for the rest of the year, and possibly has intestinal problems – no wonder that they feel low during our dark winter.
– How much are healthy and optimal levels?
– Ideally, you should bunker up on vitamin D during the summer months, and it should last you for the rest of the year. In the spring, is when one definitely has the lowest levels of vitamin D. Depending on where you live and what skin color you have (light skin produces more vitamin D), 5-30 minutes in the middle of the day 2-3 times a week should be enough. Take a walk with exposed arms and legs for example. A Spanish study showed that you can produce 1000 IU in ten minutes during a sunny summer day (in Spain). In the late summer/autumn it may take 30 minutes for the body to produce the same amount (same Spanish study). We who live here up in the north, and mostly wear thick clothes covering the skin, therefore need to take supplements. An adult may need anything between 2000-5000 IU daily, and children a little lower doses. If you have chronic and autoimmune diseases you’ll need more.
– You can also test your vitamin D levels.
– Yes, that’s true. You have a severe deficiency if you have less than 25 nmol/liter. A level between 25-50 is insufficiency according to conventional medical care, and over 75 is good. From a functional-medicine point of view, I think everything under 75 is bad. I prefer that people have levels around 100-150 nmol/liter. I often get the question if that’s not too much and I always answer: Do you know if you genetically have good vitamin D receptors that can actually use the levels you have in your body? If not, then you should be at this optimal level so that you give your body a fair chance to be healthy.
– And for people who do not want to add – what can they eat?
– I’m always able to offer dietary advice instead of supplements, but when it comes to vitamin D it’s harder. There is definitely some in fat fish (like salmon) and eggs, but the levels are so low. If you want to get your 2000 IU daily you have to consume 50 eggs, and before you have done that, you have already vomited … Therefore, I always recommend eating foods that are rich in vitamin D in addition to your dietary supplement.
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