A Deficiency of the Sunshine Vitamin? But I live in Southern California!

During my most recent annual physical my physician requested one further blood value to analyze along with the standard blood profile. In addition to the typical lipid panel, CA 125 test, and an array of others, she was also interested in evaluating my vitamin D level. I quietly thought testing my Vitamin D was completely unnecessary.

Why would this value be anywhere but in the healthy range? After all, I exercise 5x per/week, enjoying cycling, volleyball, and hiking, gym visits that include weight work, as well as eating a healthy diet and taking vitamins. Moreover, I live and appreciate the outdoor life in sunny Southern California. I was more concerned about my HDL value, not my Vitamin D. Certainly, my blood level of the sunshine vitamin will be high. Right? … I was very wrong.

When my blood test results came back they showed a Vitamin D level of 22 ng/mL. This specific # represented an “insufficiency”. The optimum level of Vitamin D should be in the range of 30 – 80 ng/mL. This result left me bewildered, confused and frustrated. I thought I was doing everything possible. How could a healthy, active female who lives in a sunny climate possibly have a low Vitamin D level?

Is it because I’m not taking sufficient amounts of supplemental vitamins?
I take a multi-vitamin that includes Vitamin D and I am very conscious of a healthy diet. But am I getting enough supplemental vitamins?

Is it because of my sunscreen use?
We are told time and time again to slather on sunscreen to prevent the damaging effects of UVA/UVB rays and thus skin cancer. Can one use too much sunscreen? How much sun is beneficial to increase vitamin D values?

These questions have made me think even more about the proper care of my bones. I have read multiple news articles about the importance of Vitamin D and Calcium for women’s health, especially as it relates to bone health, but despite my best efforts, my low Vitamin D situation has naturally confused me. What am I doing wrong? What is the best advice for women to assure they are receiving the best possible amount of Vitamin D for bone health?

-Jane Hanneken, cofounder, 4BoneHealth

Image: courtesy of 4BoneHealth