Vitamin D deficiency has been on the forefront of our health concerns for years. On-and-off we would feel compelled to run a course of Vitamin D supplements to compensate the seeming loss of this vital ingredient. Vitamin D is involved in various bodily functions such as building our bones and muscles, and preventing inflammation and diseases such as diabetes and cancer. What we don’t really know though, is vitamin D’s effect on aging.
Vitamin D3 deficiency is attributed to age, the increased use of sunscreen, also to spending more time indoors than outdoors, and more interestingly it is also blamed on obesity. Since this is a fat-soluble vitamin and gets stored in our fat, a high body-fat percentage means that the bioavailability of the vitamin is greatly reduced.
It is interesting to note that vitamin D (specifically D3 which we consume or take as supplements) doesn’t really behave like a vitamin, it acts as if it’s a hormone. Our bodies actually convert it into a steroid hormone called ‘calcitriol’ which affects the activity of 1,000 different genes in our body …which is a very big deal!!
When it comes to the effects on aging, a little lesson in chemistry might be needed here as we explain the relationship. Every cell in our bodies has a certain DNA code which is present in our chromosomes. The proper functioning of cells throughout our bodies depends on the integrity of our DNA. There is something called ‘telomeres’, and these are the caps at the end of the chromosomes and these are important in maintaining the integrity of our DNA. Telomeres are also excellent indicators of aging; as the older we get the shorter the telomeres are and vice versa. So where does vitamin D come in at this point? Research shows that vitamin D can slow the shortening of these telomeres, which is a difficult process as each time a cell divides the telomeres are shortened. Thus, vitamin D helps with DNA repair and slows down the aging process that is caused by all this.
Check your vitamin D levels regularly; as the ideal range should be around 50-80 mg/ml. Develop a healthy relationship with the sun, think of it as medication and take your required dosage, but don’t avoid it completely. Have moderate sun exposure and catch the rays in the spring or early morning. Aim to get 15-30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure 2-4 times a week, short frequent exposures are much better than longer ones. Bear in mind that the farther away from the equator you are the more exposure you will need. Also note that dark-skinned people need more sun exposure than fair-skinned ones. However, after your required exposure time get safely covered sunscreen wise and always protect your face. Even though people might get Vitamin D toxicity from supplements but this is not possible with sun exposure as the body will regulate the excess.
Aim to up your intake of natural anti-oxidants and beneficial fats to strengthen your skin cells by having berries of all kinds, pomegranates, fish oils and add to that green powder mixes. You can also get vitamin D from salmon and mackerel, as well as from orange juice and fortified milk but this will never be enough to cover your needs so keep your vitamin D 3 supplements always on hand.