Sources of Vitamin D – which are the best?
The seemingly magic benefits of Vitamin D for our health are well known by now . But which are the best and most natural sources of vitamin D?
In principle there are two ways to get vitamin D. You can either MAKE it or TAKE it.
We make vitamin D from sunlight. To be more precise, vitamin D is made in our bodies when we expose the skin to UVB rays. This is the way nature intended us humans to get vitamin D. UVB comes in sunlight when the sky is clear and when the sun is high enough above the horizon (>45 degrees) for the short UVB-rays to get through the ozone-layer and other obstacles in the atmosphere. UVB-rays can also be found in the light from the lamps in indoor tanning beds (but not in all indoor tanning beds!). Evolutionary, we used to get 80-90% of our vitamin D from sunlight and 10-20% from what we eat.
We can take vitamin D with food and as food supplements. Vitamin D comes naturally in some kind of foods rich in vitamin D: Shiitake & Button Mushrooms, Cod Liver Oil, Mackerel, Salmon, Herring, Sardines, Catfish, Tuna fish. Eggs. Please note that we talk here about naturally (and preferably organic) grown food, not industrially farmed. Food can also be fortified with vitamin D. Even if vitamin D can be added to almost any kind of food, the most common are probably milk and cereals.
It is not easy to figure out how much of of the foods rich in vitamin D you need to eat every day to avoid vitamin D deficiency. This is simply because the recommendations for vitamin D intake varies from the “official” (as stated, for example, by the Institute of Medicine) 600 IU (International Units),to 2,500 – 5,000 IU recommended by leading researchers on vitamin D.
600 IU might be enough to avoid rickets and osteoporosis, which is still the only benefit of vitamin D that is officially recognized by the health-authorities. However, thousands of recent studies show that higher levels of vitamin D have far more benefits for our health than just for the bones. You can read more about why the official position is lagging behind science if you click HERE.
If we want to reach the intake recommended by the vitamin D specialists, natural vitamin D rich food or food fortified with vitamin D is not a realistic way to get there. There is a practical limit to how much cod-liver oil we can drink or how much mushrooms, fish and eggs we can eat each day. The oral intake of vitamin D always was and still is, a complement to the main supply of vitamin D from sunlight.
In the wake of the discoveries of much more serious benefits of higher vitamin D levels than only to build strong bones, more and more vitamin D supplements are filling the shelves in drug-stores and on-line shops. The anti-sunshine propaganda also helps to turn people towards a higher oral intake of vitamin D instead of making it in the way nature intended it by inviting UVB-light into their skin.
Today it is no problem to find vitamin D supplements with as much as 10,000 IU in one single pill. SOLGAR is a popular and high quality brand which comes in strengths from 600 to 10,000 IU. You can see their range by clicking this link: Solgar vitamin D3.
The problem with taking that much vitamin D orally is that we were never meant to get our main supply of vitamin D though the digestive system. Therefore no one can really 100% vouch for the long term consequences and safety of a high oral intake as the main source of vitamin D.
Even many of the leading specialists on vitamin D hesitate to mention UV-exposure as the recommended source of vitamin D. This is mainly because they still are not sure if the adverse effects of UV-exposure, as we are being bombarded with through mass-media, are real or not. This has lead to an interesting development in the discussion about vitamin D levels. Instead of focusing on how high blood-levels of 25 (OH)D we really need to fight certain cancers and illnesses, the debate often concentrates on how much vitamin D3 is safe to take. And since nobody really knows the clinical long-term consequences from a permanent high oral intake of vitamin D3, this becomes a “Catch 22” moment in the vitamin D debate.
When we make vitamin D by exposing the skin to UVB rays, either from the natural sun or from the lamps in a tanning bed, the risk of getting too much vitamin D is not any issue. Our bodies have an automatic system that takes care of any excess of vitamin D made by UV-exposure.
The fact that vitamin D3 only (relatively) recently has been discovered as one of the potent substances made by sunshine in our skin, ought to make us thinking about what else that is good for our health might come from a tanning session?
In the video below, Dr Joseph Mercola is explaining what are the best sources of vitamin D. His view corresponds very much to mine, even if I believe he is a little bit to much focused on that the tanning beds used for vitamin D tanning must be “safe”. And with safe he means that they should have electronic ballasts instead of magnetic. He might have a point (especially since his company is selling exactly such tanning units) but that is not a reason why you should abstain from using any tanning bed which can bring UVB to your skin. For those few minutes a couple of times a week which is needed for vitamin D tanning, the extra magnetic field doesn’t make much different.
The companies that make vitamin D supplement pills are of course telling us that their supplements are the safest sources of Vitamin D. They are surfing on the anti-tanning wave invented by the manufacturers of sun-protection lotions and sun-scare lobbyists on their payroll.
The fact is that nature never intended pills to be among the sources of Vitamin D. The human body has evolved thanks to sunlight and the rays from the sun were and still are the most natural way for everyone to get good levels of this life-essential vitamin/hormone.
If sunlight could be fetched and sold by the bottle, sunshine would have had much stronger commercial support. Because UV-rays, and especially UVB-rays is the only real efficient source of Vitamin D.
Actually UV-light has been “caught and bottled” by the inventor of sunlamps, Dr. Wolff. Unfortunately he has not yet got the Nobel-prize he deserves for this invention. Instead tanning beds are being attacked every day for being life-threatening devices and laws are created to keep us away from them.
But the truth is that tanning beds can be just as good, or even better, sources of Vitamin D than sunlight from the natural sun. As Dr. Michael Holick writes in his latest book “The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy To Cure Our Most Common Health Problems“:
“A UVB photon (packet of energy) is a photon whether it is produced by the sun or by a tanning bed with fluorescent lamps.”
This means that the two best sources of Vitamin D are the sun and tanning beds.
If there are still any doubts that you can get Vitamin D from a tanning bed, the compilation of research reports as below, made by Ad Brand, Scientific Advisor to the European Sunlight Association, will for sure scatter any doubts that tanning beds are excellent sources of Vitamin D.
Indoor UV exposure capable of inducing vitamin D
This study was conducted to investigate the effects of possibly to restrictive warnings against sun exposure causing too low vit D levels and its known health consequences in order to minimize skin cancer risk.
Exposing 35% of body surface three times a week with a sub erythemal dose (1,1 SED)resulted in, quote: “The 6 weeks of UVR exposures caused the vitamin D level to rise significantly.” and: ”
This is consistent with the results of a previous study (Moan et al., 2009)”Unquote.
This again seems to indicate that it a modern sun bed with EU approved low UVB lamps, but whole body exposed twice a week at one MED, most likely does a similar job in increasing vitamin D levels.
Sun and sun bed Vitamin D
Quote:”The lack of sunlight exposure leads to more health problems than bone disease and increased risk for cancer. Other benefits include protection against infectious diseases and non-cancerous diseases like diabetes, CVD, multiple sclerosis and mental disorders.” Unquote. This work was supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society obviously in a welcome attempt to find a sensible balance between the risks of too low vitamin D and too much UV exposure.
Conclusion of this study seems to be that moderate sun and sunlight exposure are predominantly beneficial.
Sun bed vitamin D
This study was carried out with a cabinet made for psoriasis treatment. Consequently with more UVB than in today’s EU norm allowed sun beds. But the (sub erythem) exposure was once in two weeks only.
Since the dosage is determining the effect (Bunsen&Roscoe law) the once or twice a week moderate exposure with an EU approved sunbed is indeed expected to do a similar job, as e.g. Prof Moan and his team has found in his study “sunbeds as vitamin D sources”.
UV induced vitamin D
This study was performed with a unit emitting a mix. of UV A and B.
It indicates that UV with sufficient UVB contend, sufficient body surface exposed can induce significant vitamin D.
Indoor UV induced vitamin D
In this “letter to the editor” the undersigned indicate that moderate indoor UV exposure is able to improve vitamin D levels in man.
It also recommends to consider using moderate sun bed exposure for those with low vitamin D levels especially during the winter months.
Sunbed and Vitamin D
This study confirms that moderate sun bed use as is stipulated by the EU safety norm and with sufficient UVB with the EU Norm framework can/will lead to significant vitamin D induction.
Don’t gamble with your health! Get Vitamin D in the way nature intended it and from the two safest sources of Vitamin D – sunlight and tanning beds. CLICK HERE FOR EASY TO FOLLOW ADVICE ON HOW TO USE TANNING BEDS FOR HEALTHY TANNING!
P.S. I just found this worldwide Directory of Vitamin D Tanning Salons. There are not many salons now, but I assume most tanning salon owners will jump on the possibility to be featured in the directory.