THE VITAMIN D EPIDEMIC IN A LAND OF SUNSHINE
Vitamin D deficiency appears to be a global epidemic, affecting more than half of the population. It is an essential vitamin for bone mineralisation at all ages, as it regulates blood calcium levels, stimulates calcium absorption in the intestine and promotes calcium reabsorption in the bones and kidneys.
In addition, vitamin D contributes to the process of cell division, modulates the immune system, hormones, mood, sleep, positive thinking and promotes insulin secretion.
It is therefore an essential nutrient in our lives, as its deficiency has been associated with the risk of various chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and even overweight and obesity. A lack of vitamin D also causes fatigue, weakness and pain in joints and muscles.
If 90% of vitamin D is obtained mainly from sunlight, how can it be that in Spain, a country with so many hours of sunshine, there has been such a widespread deficit in recent years? Almost 50% of the Spanish adult population and 80% of those over 65 years of age are vitamin D deficient*.
According to the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (SEEN), 20 minutes of daily exposure to the sun would be enough to absorb enough vitamin D for the body, however, this deficiency suffered by Spaniards may be due, on the one hand, to the lack of supply or correct assimilation of the vitamin in the daily diet, on the other hand, to the use of sunscreens (super important and necessary, on the other hand); to the high temperatures in the summer months, which forces people to take refuge indoors; also to the use of sunscreen (super important and necessary, on the other hand); to the high temperatures in the summer months, which forces people to take refuge indoors; and, finally, to the fact that a large part of the Spanish population lives above the 35ºN parallel, which would reduce the possibilities of synthesising this vitamin in some seasons of the year.
Although it is difficult to obtain vitamin D from food (10%), there are some natural foods that can contribute to its assimilation, such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines), eggs, dairy products, sesame seeds and some nuts and algae.
Proof of this are the Eskimos, who can hardly sunbathe, but obtain this vitamin from the fat in the fish they eat. What makes it even more relevant is the fact that in the Nordic countries the vitamin D deficiency in the population is lower than that of the Spanish.
Given this controversy about how vitamin D is best absorbed and how to avoid vitamin D deficiency, it seems logical to get a good combination of all measures, from daily exposure to sunlight for 10-20 minutes before exposure to protect oneself from radiation, to eating foods rich in this vitamin and suitable for each person according to their condition and stage of life.
The best times to receive sunlight in summer especially, are those when the sun does not burn, between 8 and 11 in the morning and between 7 and 9 in the evening.
Supplementation is something that should always be assessed and prescribed by a health specialist, as excess can lead to kidney problems; likewise, knowing how to combine the recommended foods is extremely important, as in many cases it is the supply of a large group of vitamins and minerals that conditions the assimilation of vitamin D. It is also important to avoid certain foods that promote an acidic environment in the body, which blocks vitamin D formation.
Generally speaking, being a fat-soluble vitamin, it should be combined with good essential fatty acids and other fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, and K. Examples: salmon or sardines with green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds, goat kefir with nuts, eggs with cruciferous vegetables, or avocados with grated carrot and alfalfa sprouts. And cut down on medications (corticosteroids, laxatives and diuretics) and foods that prevent vitamin D from being synthesised correctly and that we call “bone enemies”, such as alcohol, sugar, red meat, saturated fats, caffeine and processed foods.
There is no longer any doubt that clinical, dietary and gastronomic indications must be totally personalised and worked out in a process of general habit readjustment for each individual and not generalised. And this makes us even more different for our customers, the ability to provide added value to the safety of employees, through specialised health content and services.
Personally, and taking into account the vitamin D epidemic, I think that this summer my favourite pâté, sardines with carrots, whose recipe I publish in my book “Come para comerte el mundo” (Eat to eat the world) from Plataforma Editorial, is a must on a good table ☺.