When looking for a useful anti-aging solution, you may have come across the phrase, “Beauty is only skin deep.” Well, I much prefer anti-aging advice along the lines of, “Aging is only skin deep.”
Sure, it’s nice to have great skin, but what about the inside of you? As most of you know, I am an advocate for healthy living, including the respective roles that exercise, stress management, and nutrition can have in the process of aging, or rather how each of them works as an overarching anti-aging solution.
Here is a serious news flash regarding the aging process—you can have all sorts of cosmetic procedures done to make yourself look younger, but if the inside of your body is aging poorly, it will eventually show, and the outcomes will not be very pleasant. This is where good, old-fashioned vitamin D comes into play as an important anti-aging solution.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
Did you know that vitamin D is one of the most researched nutrients in anti-aging medicine?
Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin,” makes for valuable anti-aging advice because it has been shown to improve bone mineral density and help prevent and manage osteoporosis. This is an important aspect of anti-aging, as loss of bone mineral content is a direct consequence of aging and is one of the many biomarkers to determine how much a person has physically aged in comparison to their chronological age. This is why, in my opinion, vitamin D is probably one of the most important nutrients to have a direct influence on how we age.
When researching anti-aging advice and the role of vitamins, it’s important to understand how they work in the body. Although vitamin D is classified as a vitamin, it actually functions more like a hormone. Yes, vitamin D is necessary for the maintenance of strong bones and teeth, because it controls the amounts of calcium your body absorbs and excretes. However, this vitamin also has powerful effects upon other hormones, like calcitonin and parathormone, which control calcium metabolism inside your bones.
Vitamin D is also an important anti-aging solution because it’s essential in the proper control of smooth muscle cell function, cardiac muscle function, and the proper formation of many different cells throughout your body, including cells that live in the digestive tract and skin. Furthermore, vitamin D helps with proper skeletal muscle growth and development. These are all factors that can influence how well (or how poorly) you age.
Anti-Aging Advice about Vitamin D Deficiencies
In the past several decades, most of the research regarding vitamin D has focussed on intakes, toxicity values, and the effects that supplementation has upon bone metabolism, fall prevention, frailty, and osteoporosis in the elderly, including where and how common deficiencies tend to occur.
What this research has clearly shown is that although vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis-related symptoms and falls among older adults, most people still do not get enough of this nutrient from their current diets. In fact, the data collected from prior research has indicated that next to iron, vitamin D is quite frequently deficient in the diets of most individuals.
There are a few reasons why this is happening. For starters, the vast majority of people get the largest amount of this vitamin from the sun—it starts with the conversion of a chemical in the skin to the vitamin, which is then sent to the liver for final conversion to its active form.
Unfortunately, many people are staying out of the sun because of fears raised regarding skin cancer. While sun protection is certainly good anti-aging advice, it shouldn’t be eliminated completely (more on this later). It is also known that older folks also do not convert vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight as well as younger individuals do.
The second problem is that an adequate intake from dietary sources is necessary to maintain blood levels of this vitamin, but these dietary levels are not attained in most people. Foods containing the highest amounts of vitamin D include oily fish (e.g. salmon), cod liver oil, egg yolk, oysters, and fortified foods like tofu, dairy products, and cereals. As you can see from this list, our standard “balanced” diets are inadequate for this essential nutrient. If you add the influence of drugs, alcohol, chronic diseases, and geographic location, all of which can potentially decrease blood levels of vitamin D, it becomes much more apparent why we have a problem here.
Another issue here is that vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it get stored in various body tissues. Although the body will use this vitamin in its stored form if levels are low, too much stored vitamin D can potentially lead to hypervitaminosis, which literally means that you have too much of the vitamin in your body. This fear of toxicity has prompted many people to follow incorrect anti-aging advice about vitamin toxicity, and has therefore prevented many people from taking vitamin D in supplement form.
Vitamin D Toxicity
A recent study released by the Mayo Clinic looked at the blood tests results measuring vitamin D in 20,000 people over a 10-year period. The researchers looked at the percentage of people who had high levels of vitamin D in their blood. They found that only eight percent of the blood tests showed a high level of the vitamin.
What is also interesting to note is that among individuals who had very high levels of vitamin D, few of them, if any, had any indications of toxicity. In fact, there was no relationship between the blood levels of vitamin D and the blood levels of calcium indicative of vitamin D toxicity. The researchers found one case of vitamin D toxicity in a person who had taken 50,000 IU with calcium supplements for three months—the recommended dosage of vitamin D in a supplement form is 1,000 IU to 4,000 IU per day! While 50,000 IU is extremely higher than the recommended intake, many people have taken up to 10,000 IU with no signs or symptoms of toxicity. This study should give you some solace regarding the safety of using vitamin D supplements as an anti-aging solution.
The Link Between Vitamin D and an Aging Population
The fact of the matter is that the number of people who are over 65 years of age is expected to double from 2012 to 2060. So people are certainly living longer, but are they living better?
Adequate intakes of vitamin D may help as an anti-aging solution by preventing chronic disorders like cognitive decline, depression, cardiovascular disease, immune depression, inflammation, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and cancer which are prevalent in older adults. These conditions are unfortunately responsible for diminished quality of life, impeded functional capacity, and premature mortality.
However, it has been estimated that at least 20%, up to as many as 100%, of older American adults are or will be deficient in vitamin D during their mature years. Is it a mere coincidence that chronic diseases associated with the aging process are much more manifest in this demographic group as is the likelihood of a vitamin D deficiency?
Although more studies are needed, some very good research has affirmed the notion that vitamin D can be a very influential anti-aging solution if proper blood levels are attained and maintained throughout adulthood. Vitamin D is one of the very few proven nutrients that can actually change health outcomes if supplemented properly!
Some of the newest research has also indicated that a deficiency in vitamin D may not directly cause conditions like heart disease and cancer, but may greatly influence survival rates, immune response, and ultimately, mortality rates of those who are clinically deficient in the vitamin. The same research has also calculated that those who have the lowest levels of vitamin-D in their blood also have a 1.6-fold increase in mortality, relative to those who have the highest amounts of the vitamin.
The Vitamin D Anti-Aging Solution
My anti-aging advice would be for the average person over the age of 50 to take between 1,000 IU and 4,000 IU daily in order to reach the desired blood levels of vitamin D (20-50 nanograms/ml). I also recommend that you take the active form of the vitamin, in this case vitamin D3, with food once per day. Taking the vitamin with a meal containing fat will improve the absorption of this nutrient. My second piece of anti-aging advice regarding vitamin D is 20 minutes of sun exposure without the use of sunscreen three to four times per week. This type of exposure will not increase your risk for skin cancer if followed closely.
Furthermore, my third piece of anti-aging advice is to get your blood levels checked for this essential vitamin. If you’re very deficient, start supplementing with 4,000 IU per day and gradually lower the dosage until your blood levels stabilize in the normal range. You should be able to maintain this level with 1,000 IU taken per day.
Everybody’s body responds differently, so check with your own doctor, who can help you develop the best vitamin D anti-aging solution that works best for you. There’s no reason we can’t all live well, live better, and live longer with good old vitamin D!
Bellows, L., et al., “Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K,” Colorado State University web site, March 23, 2015; http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09315.html.
“Food Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D, “ HealthLinkBC web site; http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile68e.stm, last accessed June 30, 2015.
Meehan, M., “The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult,” Journal of Aging and Gerontology 2014; 2(2): 60-71.
Schöttker, B., et al., “Vitamin D as a Resilience Factor, Helpful for Survival of Potentially Fatal Conditions: A Hypothesis Emerging from Recent Findings of the ESTHER Cohort Study and the CHANCES Consortium,” Nutrients 2015; 7(5): 3264-3278; doi: 10.3390/nu7053264.
“Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin D,” HealthAliciousNess.com; http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/high-vitamin-D-foods.php, last accessed June 30, 2015.