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The benefits of sunshine and vitamin D

Physicians and scientists are starting to realize the numerous health benefits of sunshine exposure and vitamin D supplementation. Most doctors know severe vitamin D deficiency causes rickets. Since rickets is rarely seen today, it is incorrectly assumed that vitamin D deficiency is nonexistent.

Fallbrook and Temecula medical providers have diagnosed hundreds of patients with vitamin D deficiency, or about 90 percent of all patients tested. Nine out of 10 people reading this story likely suffer from vitamin D deficiency.

Why should you have your vitamin D level checked? Studies have shown that those with lower levels of vitamin D in their blood have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and heart disease. One study showed greater than a 60-percent reduction in breast cancer in those with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood.

In addition, senior citizens who have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood are at higher risk of falls, osteoporosis and bone fractures. Those who suffer from chronic pain and fibromyalgia also have lower levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D levels are checked by a simple blood test. Treatment usually requires supplementation with vitamin D3 as opposed to the more commonly sold over the counter vitamin D.

Vitamin D is also made from moderate daily sun exposure to the arms and legs. Caution must be taken to prevent sun burning. Many sunscreens will block out UVB, which is the type of sunlight needed for skin to make vitamin D. Those with darker pigment are higher risk of deficiency, which may explain the higher incidence of diseases in certain ethnic populations.

To check your vitamin D level, contact your physician or call (951) 676-4193 for an appointment.

Eric Madrid MD is a family physician with Rancho Family Medical Group, which has offices in Fallbrook and Temecula. See

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