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Melanin Activated! Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D has been a hot topic lately as a great way to boost your immune system. Many doctors and professionals have been advocating physical activity as a means to increase your vitamin D intake via sunlight. However, there has been conflicting reports stating that African-Americans or people with darker skin tones are more prone to be vitamin D deficient and may require additional supplementation.

Melanin is a natural substance that provides color to hair, skin and eyes acts as a natural sunscreen. The more melanin you possess, the darker your skin tone. The darker the skin tone, the longer it takes for the body to absorb of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Ultimately, the amount of melanin in your skin determines how much vitamin D your body produces.

So you may be wondering, how do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin D?

Keep reading and I’ll explain below.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. A vitamin that our bodies absorb to maintain healthy calcium and phosphorous levels for bone growth and overall health. Technically, vitamin D is a hormone. The body can naturally produce it.

On the contrary, vitamins are essential nutrients that the body is unable to naturally produce and must be obtained through diet. However, vitamin D must be converted in the body to become activated.

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Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is usually associated with bone health.  However, it also plays an important role in immune health and preventative health for fighting diseases of the heart and brain. Vitamin D has been shown to help reduce the risk of depression and multiple sclerosis (MS) and help with overall improved health.

Sunlight and Vitamin D

Vitamin D levels are influenced primarily by sun exposure and to a lesser extent diet. If you live in a sunny climate you have a greater chance of making enough vitamin D on your own. Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Studies show that darker skin tones need more sun exposure than fair-skinned persons. For the melanin in the skin tends to block out some of the UV rays. However, fair-skinned types are recommended to obtain some pre-sunscreen sun exposure before applying.  To ensure the body is able to produce the vitamin D the body needs.

Melanin and Vitamin D

Studies show that skin type influences vitamin D levels. Most show that larger amounts of melanin in darker skin compete for UV photons. However, the presence of melanin helps with regulating the synthesis of vitamin D. By preventing the absorption of too much vitamin D which can be toxic.  Most African-Americans vitamin D test results show that despite having lower total 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels compared to non-melanated individuals. African Americans typically do not show symptoms of fractures, falls or osteopenia.

Researchers are unsure if the lack of bone issues are due to the higher bone mineral density in African-Americans or other unknown factors.  Due to the disparity in bone health and vitamin D levels of African-Americans. Researchers believe there may be multiple key factors in determining accurate vitamin D levels.

The current vitamin D testing of 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels alone may not be adequate enough to provide true results for African-Americans. Further investigation is required for the development of thorough testing for African-Americans to ensure adequate vitamin D levels and overall bone health.

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Vitamin D Foods and Supplements

If you’re unable to get adequate sun exposure. You can easily supplement your diet with foods high in vitamin D or vitamin D pills. The foods will provide you some but not all of the total dietary nutrients that your body needs. Here are some vitamin D enriched foods that I recommend you try:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms
  • Beef liver
  • Fortified Foods such as milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurts and breads

Vitamin D Deficiency

If the proper amounts of vitamin D is not consumed or absorbed. You risk becoming deficient and developing conditions such as osteoporosis and depression. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to: cancer, inflammatory disorders, raised blood pressure and autoimmune diseases.

Therefore, to ensure you’re receiving adequate vitamin D. You would need to be tested. Vitamin D deficiency tests should include blood levels of calcium, bone density tests and parathyroid hormone level testing.

The usage of sunscreen should also be monitored. For, if adequate sun exposure is not received prior to application. Overtime you can become vitamin D deficient.

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What is the Right Amount and How to Test for Vitamin D?

The right amounts of vitamin D that you need varies upon age. The National Institute of Health states for ages 1-70 years, 15 mcg (600 IU) of vitamin D is recommended. 10 mcg (400 IU) for infants under 1 and 20 mcg (800IU) for adults 71 years and older.

To obtain a more accurate amount you would need to contact your physician for a blood test of your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels which are measured in nanograms per milliliter. Adequate levels for overall bone health should be between 20ng/mL to 50 ng/mL. Levels below 12 ng/mL are considered vitamin D deficient.

For preventative health purposes experts recommend levels between 35 to 40 ng/mL. Vitamin D statuses vary across different races. Therefore, the recommended levels will not correlate to the same health outcomes in all individuals. It is always good to follow up with your physician.

How Much is Too Much Vitamin D and the Side Effects?

Yes, it is possible to receive too much vitamin D. If there is too much vitamin D in your blood, it can become toxic.  Consuming more than 4000 IU of vitamin D is considered excessive. Vitamin D in excess can cause side effects of kidney stones, heart arrhythmias, anorexia, dehydration, fatigue and high blood pressure. To be safe, stay within the recommended dosage unless prescribed differently by your physician.

Natural sunlight is preferred. Ironically, it is impossible to receive too much vitamin D from sunlight.  Due to body’s ability to regulate the amount of vitamin D it produces. Therefore, if you’re supplementing your diet with vitamin D pills. Ensure you’re following the recommended dosage or consulting with your physician.

How can I learn more about Vitamin D?

For more information on vitamin D, check out these great sources below:

{Make This SALMON Dish!}Disclaimer: The above content is for your information only and may not be regarded as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based merely on contents of this information. Instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.

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