Sun and Vitamin D

More of the Sunshine Nutrient in Hawaii

Books about Hawaii Life




Recent studies have shown that Vitamin D, called the Sunshine Nutrient, is a key factor in protecting health and longevity.  On the mainland US and Europe, it is estimated that over 75% of the population is deficient in Vitamin D.  Even with plenty of sunshine in Hawaii over 50% of the residents have a Vitamin D deficiency.  

You can be deficient in Vitamin D if you do not get enough exposure to sunlight.  But sunlight alone is not enough, because processes in the liver and the kidneys are needed to convert the inert Vitamin D created by sunlight to the active form of the vitamin.  Then the digestive tract has to absorb the active Vitamin D.   

Wearing sunscreen, clothing, and having darker skin slows the process of absorbing Vitamin D from the sun.  As people age, their skin absorbs less vitamin D from sunlight and many older people stay indoors all day.  People who are overweight are often short of Vitamin D from sunlight because it is stored in their fat tissue and therefore not available in their blood to be used.   Vitamin D is also available in some foods such as fatty fish, fresh eggs, and foods like milk where Vitamin D is added. 

But even with enough sunlight, Vitamin D may not be converted to its active state if a person has liver or kidney problems.   Cholesterol is needed to create Vitamin D, so medicines that block the creation of cholesterol in the liver may interfere with Vitamin D production.  Some people can’t absorb the Vitamin D in their intestines because of the inability to absorb dietary fat, inflammation from gluten, or other digestive issues.

Research has shown people deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to die of cancer and heart disease and have other illnesses.  Other research has shown Vitamin D helps  prevent diabetes, hypertension, sugar intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.  Dr. Oscar H. Franco at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands recently published a study that calculated roughly 13% of all deaths in the United States and 9% in Europe could be attributed to low vitamin D levels.     

People who live in Hawaii have lower BMIs and longer life spans when compared to people living on the mainland.  Hawaiian fish such as ahi (tuna), aku (skipjack) ono (king mackerel), and opakapaka (pink snapper) are rich in Vitamin D.  One of the major differences may be the year-round sunlight and fresh fish in Hawaii that triggers vitamin D synthesis.  

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