Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin
A lot of exciting new information has emerged recently about the health benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a type of fat soluble vitamin which means it can be stored in the body over time. It is found to a small degree in foods such as milk, margarine, salmon and cod liver. However, the major source of vitamin D is produced by our own bodies whenever bare skin is exposed to bright sunlight for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
In a recent study, daily doses of 1000 units of vitamin D has shown to reduce the instances of all types of Cancer by about 60%. Previous studies have suggested a link between cancer and low levels of vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D is especially common in people living in more northern latitudes such as Canada, who are exposed to less sunlight on average throughout the year. This is especially true during the fall and winter months when vitamin D stores from the summer months can become depleted. Also, modern lifestyle contributes to a general lack of vitamin D because of the increasing amount people spend indoors.
Another consequence of sun avoidance is the use ofsunscreens to prevent skin cancer. Proper use of sunscreens with SPF ratings of 15 and higher have shown to be effective in preventing skin cancer. Unfortunately, the same UVB that causes skin cancer produces vitamin D which has shown to reduce the risk of other types of cancer. Because skin cancer is one of the most diagnosed forms of cancer, someone choosing between sun exposure and vitamin D and using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, could be perceived as exchanging one cancer risk for another. A poor solution to the dilemma is obtaining strictly dietary sources of vitamin D because of their low vitamin D content (a person would have to drink 3Ls of milk a day to get the cancer preventative doses of Vitamin D, which is impractical).
Because of these factors, the Canadian Cancer Society recommends adults take a supplement of 1000 IU of vitamin D during the fall and winter months and all year round for people who are at higher risk of low vitamin D levels. This group includes people who are older, have dark skin, who don't go outside often and who wear clothing that covers most of their skin. Nonetheless, it is still recommended to avoid excessive sun exposure and to wear a good sunscreen when appropriate. So talk to your doctor or pharmacist about choosing a good vitamin D supplement and or sunscreen that is right for you.
Omega-3s are a popular health topic these days, with more and more brands and labels advertising that their products contain Omega-3s. But what are they and how do they fit into a healthy lifestyle plan? This brief article will attempt to explain what all the excitement is about.
Omega-3 is a name for a specific type of fat, more technically, a polyunstaturated fat or often described as an essential fatty acid. They are considered essential because Omega-3s are required for proper functioning of the body and we cannot produce it ourselves, so we must obtain them directly through diet or supplementation. But what exactly do they do and how do they benefit us?
A complete list of Omega-3s effects on the body would fill several pages. In a nutshell, Omega-3s reduce the bodies tendency towards inflammation, helps regulate the breakdown of fat, builds healthy skin and nails, helps thin the blood and is important in proper brain function. These wide range of important health benefits is the reason Omega-3s have been promoted to help with a variety of conditions.
For instance, by reducing the bodies tendency towards inflammation, Omega-3s may benefit diseases related to inflammation such as asthma, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. As well, Omega-3s could help with health issues involving the improper breakdown of fat such as high cholesterol and obesity. Since Omega-3s help thin the blood and therefore improve blood flow they can help lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease and stroke. Finally, Omega-3s are used as a major building block in the brain, making them a crucial requirement for proper brain function and also why they are useful for conditions related to mental wellbeing such as depression, bipolar disorder and learning disabilities like ADHD.
But a discussion of Omega-3s would be incomplete without mentioning Omega-6s, another essential fatty acid. Unlike Omega-3s, Omega-6s generally have opposite effects on ,.the body. For example, Omega-6s increase the bodies tendency towards inflammation and tend to thicken the blood. That is why too much Omega-6 fatty acids with respect to Omega-3s are thought to contribute to the prevalence of conditions such as asthma, eczema, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. On the other hand, too much Omega-3s can lead to rare bleeding disorders which is why it is important to have a balance of both Omega-3s and Omega-6s.
Nonetheless, most people get plenty of Omega-6s in their diet but lack enough Omega-3s, which in the typical North American diet, is found in foods that are consumed less often. These foods include walnuts, flax seed, primrose and borage oil, wild caught fish, especially fatty fish such as mackerel, anchovies, salmon and trout. Animal sources of Omega-3s are generally a more potent source of this essential fatty acid. This is why it is recommended to consume at least two portions of fish a week. An alternative to dietary sources of Omega-3s is to purchase supplements that contain high levels of Omega-3s, especially EPA and DHA. Supplementation of Omega-s 6s are usually counterproductive because they are already so common in our diet.