You wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and get started on your work for the day. Five hours pass and you have barely had a snack to eat, but you are making tremendous progress before you realize…
You have not seen the light of day.
For some people, the lack of sunlight doesn’t even register. But in our modern workplace environment, lacking sunlight can mean negative health effects from low vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is synthesized in the skin when exposed to radiation from the sun. Studies suggest this vitamin is responsible for regulating mood and other cognitive markers as well as physical signs of aging.
Sunlight and Vitamin D
Humans produce vitamin D from cholesterol, but only when there is adequate ultra-violet radiation from sun exposure. Adequate vitamin D is possible year around between the 37th parallels near the equator. This means that thousands of people living north of these lines are possibly deficient, especially given the modern (indoor) lifestyle of most humans!
According to one of the Examine.com editors, “If there’s only one supplement you’re taking for your health…it should probably be Vitamin D. I highly recommend taking Vitamin D instead of a multivitamin most of the time.” The problem with only getting your vitamin D from sunlight is that the amount of sunlight needed to get a good dose of vitamin D will vary based on skin color (darker skinned people need more exposure to sunlight, as the darker skin pigment reduces the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D) and also by geographic location, as people in northern latitudes (see the map above) do not get the required type of sunlight for the skin to make vitamin D for the winter months.
Luckily, sunlight isn’t the only way to get vitamin D. There are plenty of animal products (particularly dairy) that are filled with the vitamin as well. Milk, eggs, and salmon are all good options to get vitamin D from your diet. Milk in particular is generally fortified with vitamin D.
General Memory and Mood
Ensuring an adequate supply of vitamin D can improve memory over the long term, but it is far more likely that the vitamin acts as a neuroprotective agent.
One of the more profound studies shows the effect of vitamin D on mood. Dr. Rhonda Patrick published a study showing that vitamin D can regulate serotonin levels in the brain which can help support a better mood.
Because vitamin D has such an impact on mood, it makes sense to either step out into the sun or take a supplement when at all possible!
Markers of Aging
Vitamin D is also known to be a great anti-aging and vitality promoting agent. One estimate presumed that vitamin D supplementation reduced medical costs by about $16 – 25 billion because of the general protective and preventative effects.
By protecting against DNA damage, vitamin D can reduce oxidative stress. The vitamin prevents telomere shortening, which are small markers of aging in the human body. Dr. Rhonda Patrick discusses vitamin D on the Joe Rogan Experience and explains things a little more thoroughly.
While you probably will not get rid of wrinkles by supplementing with vitamin D, it is certainly going to help you to extend the life of your DNA and hopefully prevent aging over the years.
Physical Benefits of Vitamin D
Although Pure Nootropics readers are primarily concerned with effects on the brain, there are tremendous physical benefits of vitamin D. One of the reasons milk is fortified with vitamin D is because calcium is absorbed better. Vitamin D alone contributes to stronger bones and density, which can prevent fractures in young adults and elderly alike.
In fact, there is a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and bone fractures. Navy recruits who supplemented with vitamin D noted a 21% reduction in stress fractures. It is clear both young adults and elderly can benefit from vitamin D for bone density and strength.
Cardiovascular issues and blood pressure are large concerns in America and the western world. Insufficient vitamin D levels are correlated with a higher likelihood of heart issues and at least 1000 IU / day supplementation can reduce these risks.
Supplementation – Why and How
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is rarely adequate for healthful individuals. In the United states, it is 400 – 800 IU / day, but this is not high enough for adults. Even the safe upper limit is considered 2000 IU / day, which is lower than most recommendations.
The research suggests that up to 10,000 IU / day is the true safe upper limit, but a dose of 1 – 2000 IU / day is probably good enough to supplement any diet or geographical location with moderate sunlight. For people living in more northern regions, 4000 IU / day might be a good option.
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it should be taken with a fat source. If you can spend 15 – 20 minutes in sunlight (or even in the shade) you can get away with 2000 IU / day. It’s usually nice to get a combination of vitamin D from both the sun and supplementation.
If you have used 23andme to get your genetic results, find a tool called Genetic Genie to get additional information about your personal vitamin D needs. I have a VDR Bsm mutation that controls vitamin D hormone receptor expression (whatever that means), which means I need to get higher vitamin D levels!
Everyone has their own genetic and biological needs. Make sure you consider your geographical location, your habits, diet, and even your genetic material. Either way, most of the population benefits from supplementing with vitamin D.