Vitamin D is the superhero of all vitamins. What other vitamin can help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, dental cavities and osteoporosis while also protecting bones, skin, hair and teeth? If that isn’t enough, vitamin D also helps regulate cells, systems and organs in the body.
Recent studies show that vitamin D can protect vision as well, preventing age-related degenerative eye conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. Having too little vitamin D can delay the healing of the cornea in the event of injury or disease. Vitamin D also improves cell communication in the eyes. There are tunnel-like proteins between all corneal cells where they can exchange sugars, amino acids, proteins and vitamins and maintain homeostasis. Sufficient amounts of vitamin D strengthens these pathways of communication.
As essential as vitamin D is for vision and overall health, an estimated 85 percent of Americans are vitamin D-deficient. Some researchers equate this to an unrecognized global epidemic. Why are most of us deficient in vitamin D? One of the biggest reasons is because we spend such little time outside. Our bodies require sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, but the majority of the adult population works indoors and children stay inside much more than in generations past.
The new 2010 recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 600 IU for those 1-70 years. In just one hour of midday summer full-body skin exposure, about 10,000 IU of vitamin D is produced, but using sunscreen completely blocks vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D can be obtained through food, but it is considerably less potent. As a point of reference, 24 fluid ounces of vitamin D fortified milk contains only 300 IU of vitamin D. If we only rely on food sources of vitamin D, it probably isn’t enough (Source: News Medical).
So how do you find the balance between getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and not exposing your eyes to unnecessary UV rays that speed the progression of cataracts? According to the Vitamin D Council, the answer depends on your specific skin pigmentation. For a fair-skinned person, it could be as few as 15 minutes. Talk to your eye doctor at your next comprehensive eye exam for suggestions on how to safely increase your vitamin D intake through sunlight, food sources and supplements. Your eyes will thank you for it!