THE SUNSHINE VITAMIN

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. That means we (finally!) get to look forward to longer days and more sunshine! But aside from the mood-boosting value of sunshine and the opportunity for more outdoor activity, we also get to take advantage of the added benefit of our body producing more vitamin D. This can be helpful with our goal of blood pressure normalization.

Numerous clinical studies have shown that there is an association between high blood pressure and low levels of vitamin D.

According to a study published in the Journal of Nephropathology, those with vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency had greater activity of an enzyme called angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE, which constricts blood vessels and subsequently raises blood pressure. Many people who have high blood pressure take medications that are ACE Inhibitors, which work as you’d imagine they would (by inhibiting the production of ACE). Doing this helps prevent the constriction of blood vessels, and thus helps to normalize BP.

A brief explanation of why vitamin D appears to be helpful with blood pressure normalization:

Renin is produced in our kidneys and it increases the production of ACE. Vitamin D appears to turn down the production of renin. Because vitamin D turns down the production of renin, the production of ACE goes down, and so blood vessels don't constrict as much. This action is the probable mechanism of vitamin D's role in blood pressure normalization.

So, blah blah blah with the technicalities... What's important?

Having adequate amount of the sunshine vitamin is important to your goal of blood pressure normalization. And the best ways to get vitamin D are sun, food, and supplementation.

Why is it called “the sunshine vitamin”? Our skin produces large amounts of vitamin D when the sun is high in the sky and lots of our bare skin is exposed (like your bare back when you’re tanning or going to the beach). We make what we need in about half the time it would take to get a sunburn. That being said, it does get a bit more difficult for our skin to produce it as we age, and so many of us live in climates where that level of sun exposure isn't available year-round. And of course, we need to be mindful of skin cancer prevention and not over-exposing ourselves.

That’s why it’s also important to get vitamin D through food and supplementation.

Foods that contain vitamin D are: fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, fortified milk and orange juice, fortified cereal. Meanwhile, supplementation should be in the form of vitamin D3 cholecalciferol. It’s the form of vitamin D best absorbed by the body.

It's a good idea to ask your doctor for a blood test to check your vitamin D levels and speak to him/her about supplementation before starting.

Personally, as I live in the northeast, I opt for the sun in appropriate amounts in the summer, fatty fish like wild Alaskan sockeye salmon and pasture raised eggs year round, and vitamin D3 supplementation in the fall, winter and spring.

Adequate levels of vitamin D helping in blood pressure normalization is only one of the MANY benefits of vitamin D. So get your levels checked!

Here's to your health!

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