Everyone knows our ancestors didn’t wear sunscreen. And of course they weren’t afraid of going out in the sun. In fact, they saw it as a source of life.
But did you know it was making them stronger? Right down to their bones…
A study published in the Lancet found that in today’s world, we’re losing bone density faster than we should – even when they adjust for increased life expectancy.1
Weakening bone density correlates perfectly with our transition from being outside most of the time to being indoors and out of the sun.
Worse, mainstream health advice is to run for cover from the sun. The $5 billion-dollar-a-year sunscreen industry couldn’t be happier about spreading the word.
Now that we’re indoors most of the time, and slathering on chemical sunscreens when we’re outside, we don’t get enough sun, and our bones are suffering.
What’s the connection between bone health and the sun?
Vitamin D. Your skin produces it when it’s exposed to the sun’s rays. The vitamin D you make this way helps you live better by keeping your bones younger… and free from fractures.
Scientists from the University of California Berkeley recently looked at vitamin D and bone aging using some brand new technology.
I’m not talking about a DEXA scan. Instead, they used an innovative X-ray scan that records bone structure on a nano-scale. It gives a three-dimensional view deep inside your bones. It’s called “synchrotron radiation-based microcomputed tomography.”
It’s powerful. The researchers scanned the bones of 30 people. Half of them had normal vitamin D levels. The other half were deficient. The scan revealed that people with low vitamin D showed signs of premature bone aging in a way they had never seen before… 2
They discovered that when you’re low in vitamin D, your bones start to form tiny micro-cracks all over the surface. They’re like tiny fractures. And they indicate aging bones that are more likely to become osteoporotic, or even snap.
You can’t see or feel micro-cracks. You’d have no idea you’re getting them. But a vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of developing these micro-cracks by more than 30%.
That’s just one more piece of evidence that vitamin D is critical for bone strength.
The problem is, almost everyone is deficient. One study of 1,600 people found 89% were low in vitamin D.3
It’s a good idea to have your doctor check your levels with a simple, inexpensive blood test. A level of 20 ng/ml is considered “sufficient.” But that’s because doctors are looking at an average of what most people have, which is already insufficient.
The best source of vitamin D is the sun. A good rule of thumb is to get out there when your shadow is shorter than you are. Typically that’s between 10 am and 2 pm. That’s when the sun is highest and rays are strongest so you can get some good exposure over a short time. As little as 10 minutes in the midday sun can give you 10,000 IU of vitamin D.
And don’t worry about “overdosing.” Your skin will automatically stop converting sunshine to vitamin D when you’ve made enough for the day.
You can also get vitamin D from food. This is a good strategy during the winter months. Good sources include salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef and cod liver oil.
If you’ve been tested and you’re not sure you’re getting enough vitamin D from the sun and your food, you can also take vitamin D supplements.
Your body absorbs the D3 form better than D2 so you have more available, but here’s something new about D3 you may not have heard. A new study shows that D3 is also bioactive, not just bioavailable. So it’s not only absorbed better, but D3 actually keeps your body’s overall vitamin D at high levels for optimal health.4 Other forms don’t do this.
Here’s something you’ll want to remember as well. For every 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day you take, you can expect your blood levels to improve by only 1ng/ml. Remember that supplementation isn’t instantaneous. It may take six months to get your vitamin D up.
- Lees B, Molleson T, Arnett T, Stevenson J. “Differences in proximal femur bone density over two centuries.” Lancet. 1993;341(8846):673-5.
- Busse B, Bale HA, Zimmermann EA, et al. “Vitamin D Deficiency Induces Early Signs of Aging in Human Bone, Increasing the Risk of Fracture.” Science Translational Medicine. July 2013: Vol. 5, Issue 193, p. 193ra88
- Schilling S. “Epidemic vitamin d deficiency among patients in an elderly care rehabilitation facility.” Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2012 Jan;109(3):33-8.
- Yin K, Agrawal D. “Vitamin D and inflammatory diseases.” J Inflamm Res. 2014;7:69-87.