Chances are high that either metabolic syndrome or Vitamin D deficiency applies to you. A few quick stats:
- Some 75% of the people in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. (Here’s a little more on why this might be.)
- About 35% of the U.S. population suffers from metabolic syndrome, defined as high blood sugar (but pre-diabetic), excess weight around the waistline, hypertension, high cholesterol and/or high triglycerides.
Why this matters: according to this recent study, vitamin D deficiency is a necessary pre-condition for metabolic syndrome—in other words, in order to get metabolic syndrome, you must first be deficient in Vitamin D! The study also shows that Vitamin D is an effective treatment for metabolic syndrome once you do have it.
If you suffer from metabolic syndrome, eat a crappy diet, or believe that you have other risk factors, you need to make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin D. There are three ways to get it: sunlight, diet, and supplementation.
Increase Vitamin D Levels Through Sun Exposure
Increased sun exposure is the way we all think of to increase vitamin D levels, but it doesn’t always work very well. Here’s why: Vitamin D gets made in the sebum (oils) on the surface of your skin and then must be absorbed through your skin and into your body. It’s a surprisingly long process—it takes about 48 hours to complete. So, if you wash off your sebum (like, if you shower) and then get sun, no vitamin D gets made. Even if you don’t shower before sun exposure, if you shower within 48 hours, it’s unlikely you’ll absorb a significant amount of vitamin D.
If you want to increase your vitamin D levels through sun exposure, your best bet is to 1) wash only those parts of you that require special attention with soap and just rinse off elsewhere; 2) bare as much skin as the weather comfortably allows, and 3) stay in the sun (careful of overheating, of course) until you start to turn just slightly pink. (Any longer and you will burn, which can set you up for skin cancers.)
Getting Vitamin D Through Diet
Vitamin D can be found in mackerel, salmon, sardines, liver (including fish liver oils), and, to a lesser extent, mushrooms. Some eggs contain vitamin D, but it depends on the feed they are given so if you are not raising your own laying hens, I wouldn’t rely on eggs as a source. There are a number of processed foods fortified with vitamin D, but I strongly encourage you to avoid processed foods because they are missing far more nutrients than they offer.
Increasing Vitamin D Through Supplementation
There are two main forms of vitamin D on the market: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Doctor prescribed supplements are usually D2, and over-the-counter supplements are usually D3. Lucky for you, D3 is the form that you want to take. Make sure when you are choosing a vitamin D supplement that the label has cholecalciferol listed under the supplement facts. A maintenance dose is about 2000 IU. If your levels are low, I’d take at least 4-5000 IU daily, or whatever dose your doctor recommends based on your labs. Don’t go higher than that without a doctor’s supervision; too much Vitamin D can lead to a condition called hypercalcemia (too much calcium) in certain people.
A Word on Magnesium
Many of our natural plant sources of magnesium contain less than they did in years past due to soil depletion. For this reason, if you are trying to raise your serum vitamin D levels it may be wise to either check your levels on blood work, or supplement with magnesium as well.