Vitamin D: We Can’t Count On Sunshine To Maintain Adequate Levels

Producing enough Vitamin D is so important for so many reasons; one important one being that it allows us to absorb calcium more efficiently. New research has indicated that Vitamin D deficiency could contribute to several diseases including: High Blood Pressure, Coronary Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

This deficiency affects all ages including young children, especially in the northern states. Why? As we can see looking out our windows most all winter, we do not see sunshine too many days and Vitamin D is made in the skin in the presence of Ultra Violet rays. Even in the summer the liberal use of sunscreen reduces skin damage and cancer yes, but it also minimizes Vitamin D production. City dwellers living among tall buildings in urban environments get less sun exposure; we as a society are spending more time inside on our computers and are also not drinking as much Vitamin D fortified milk. Even if you drink a lot of fortified milk you would need to drink at least six cups per day. Other dairy products such as yogurt or cheese may not contain Vitamin D so check your labels.

Vitamin D-rich foods include: fresh fatty fish such as herring, canned fish such as tuna, sardines, or salmon, eggs, beef or calf liver and any food item fortified with Vitamin D such as orange juice or cereal. Cod liver oil supplements may be a good idea as it supplies Vitamin D, A, Omega -3 and is also an anti-inflammatory agent. There are many Vitamin D supplements on the market and I feel that everyone over the age of 50 should be taking one. You need to inform your doctor and research for the most reliable product because supplements are not as closely monitored as other prescription drugs and some companies may not give you the adequate type or dose of Vitamin D.

The big question is how can we safely get our Vitamin D from the sun without damaging our skin? During peak hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. we need to be in the sun with at least our face, arms and hands bare. (The more skin the better) for about 10-20 minutes without sun screen at least three to four times a week. For us here in the north this leaves us out during the colder cloudy months. Most likely anyone living in our area should take supplements especially in the winter. Those of us who really get down in the winter can also use a special light for light therapy.

Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable at current levels without the support of participant contributions. Be aware that Food Stamps can be used toward your contribution Thank you for your support.

Chautauqua County Office for the Aging Senior Nutrition Program provides nutritious noon meals at several Congregate Dining Sites throughout the county along with a Restaurant Dining out Program. Our Dietitian, Cheryl Walhstrom, RD, is available for nutrition counseling in your home or by phone. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Call the office for more details and information.

Call NY CONNECTS at 753-4582 for more information.